(With Twitter statement, analyst commentary and quotes)
June 6 (Reuters) – Elon Musk warned on Monday that he could back out of his $44 billion (41.1 billion euros) takeover bid on Twitter if the social network did not provide him with the data that it claims about fake user accounts.
In a letter made public in accordance with stock market regulations, the multi-billionaire accuses Twitter of a “significant and manifest breach” of its obligations and says it reserves the right to terminate their merger agreement.
This is the first time that the entrepreneur threatens directly and by Twitter mail to abandon his takeover plan, a possibility that he had however already mentioned in messages published on the social network itself.
Twitter, which had previously played down this risk by considering that Elon Musk’s warning had no legal value, assured that it had already communicated data to Elon Musk and that it would continue to do so, adding that it planned to complete the proposed merger for the benefit of all of its shareholders.
“Musk believes Twitter is clearly refusing to honor its obligations under the merger agreement, raising new suspicions that the company may be trying to withhold requested data due to concerns that analysis data by Musk will uncover,” the Monday letter said.
Elon Musk, who presents himself as an outspoken defender of freedom of expression, questioned the sincerity of the data published by Twitter according to which fake accounts represent less than 5% of its user base, saying that the actual proportion could exceed 20%.
He is therefore asking the social network for data supposed to allow him to carry out his own analysis of the user base and affirms that he does not trust the “lax testing methodology” of his target.
“It is clear that Musk is entitled to access to the data requested to enable him to prepare the transfer of the activities of Twitter under his control and to facilitate the financing of this transition”, estimate his lawyers in the letter.
Elon Musk, also CEO of the electronic car manufacturer Tesla and founder of the aerospace company SpaceX, claims to have completed the financing for the takeover of Twitter by supplementing his personal contribution with loans.
“He’s trying to get out of the deal with Twitter, it’s a first warning shot,” said Dan Ives, financial analyst at Wedbush.
On Wall Street, Twitter shares lost 2.81% around 3:45 p.m. GMT. (Report Nivedita Balu in Bangalore, French version Marc Angrand, edited by Kate Entringer)