Elon Musk threw another curveball on Monday at his takeover of Twitter.
At a technology conference in Miami, Mr. Musk, the world’s richest man, said a deal for Twitter at a lower price “is not out of the question,” according to a person attending the event.
Musk’s comment came in response to a question about whether he would renegotiate his planned $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, based on quoted numbers about the number of bots or spam accounts on the social media service, the participant said. Mr Musk said Twitter’s figure — less than 5 percent of all accounts — was hard to believe.
Shares of Twitter fell 8 percent Monday, closing at $37.39. That was well below the $54.20 per share Mr. Musk promised to pay last month to buy the social media company.
Mr. Musk, who also heads rocket company SpaceX and electric automaker Tesla, has caused confusion over the status of the deal. Last Friday he tweeted that his purchase was from Twitter “temporarily on hold”‘ until he could get more details about the amount of spam and fake accounts on the platform. He later followed up and said he still “dedicatedto the appointment.
Parag Agrawal, the CEO of Twitter, also posted a lengthy tweet thread on Monday describing how the company calculates the number of bots. He said the company shared an “overview of the estimation process with Elon a week ago”. Mr. Musk responded to the thread with a poo emoji.
Mr. Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Twitter declined to comment.
Analysts have speculated that Mr Musk may have tried to pull out of the deal or renegotiate a lower price. Stocks of tech companies have taken a beating since Mr. Musk first announced his takeover of Twitter earlier this month. Shares of Tesla, Musk’s main source of wealth, are down nearly 30 percent.
Renegotiating a deal wouldn’t be easy. In addition to a $1 billion severance fee, Mr. Musk’s deal with Twitter includes a “specific performance clause,” which gives the company the right to sue him and force him to complete the deal as long as the debt financing he has raised for the agreement remains intact.
But Mr. Musk has also caused very public headaches for Twitter. On the weekend he has tweeted that Twitter’s legal department had “called to complain” that he had violated a nondisclosure agreement discussing the size of the bot sample of 100. Musk’s deal with Twitter also includes a contempt clause that prohibits him from tweeting negatively about the transaction.
The two sides have thus far proceeded as if there was a deal. Teams for both sides held a previously scheduled meeting on Friday. (Twitter confirmed the meeting was “part of the transaction planning process.”) On Friday, Twitter chairman Bret Taylor tweeted: “We continue to keep our agreement.†
Mike Isaac reporting contributed.