Elon Musk Races to Secure Financing for Twitter Bid

Elon Musk is racing to secure funding for his $ 43 billion bid to buy Twitter.

Morgan Stanley, The Investment Bank Working With Mr. Musk has been calling on banks and other potential investors to offer financing to shore up financing, said four people with knowledge of the situation. Mr. Musk is the first focused on raising debt and has yet to beg for equity financing, one of the people said.

Mr. Musk is evaluating various packages of debt, including more senior debt known as preferred debt and a loan against his shares of Tesla, the electric carmaker that he runs, two of the people said. Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm, is among the parties offering debt financing in a bid for Twitter.

Mr. Musk is aiming to pull together a fully funded offer as soon as this week, one of the people said, though that timeline is far from certain. The people with knowledge of the discussions were not authorized to speak publicly because the details are confidential and in flux.

It is unclear if Mr. Musk’s efforts will be successful, but they will go toward addressing a key question about his Twitter bid. Last week, Mr. Musk, the wealthiest man in the world, made an unsolicited offer for the social media company, saying he wanted to take it private and that he wanted people to speak more freely at the service. But his offer was regarded skeptically by Wall Street because he didn’t include details about how he would come up with the money for the deal.

While Twitter’s board has not rejected Mr. Musk’s offer, it responded days later with a defensive tactic known as a “poison pill.” A poison pill would effectively prevent Mr. Musk owning more than 15 percent of Twitter’s shares. The 50-year-old has been building a stake in the company and owns more than 9 percent of Twitter, making it its single-largest individual shareholder.

Mr. Musk, whose net worth has been reported at $ 255 billion, did not respond to a request for comment. On Tuesday, in what appeared to be a veiled allusion to Twitter, he tweeted his thoughts about social networks and their policies.

Morgan Stanley declined to comment. Twitter, which also declined to comment, is expected to provide an update on its deal-making prospects when it reports quarterly earnings on April 28.

Tesla did not return a request for comment. It is unclear how Tesla’s shareholders will regard Mr. Musk’s move to take out a loan against shares of the company; Some of its largest shareholders declined to comment. The automaker will report on quarterly earnings on Wednesday. Mr. Musk often speaks during Tesla’s earnings call with investors.

A deal for Twitter, if structured as a traditional leveraged buyout, would likely be the largest such deal in at least the last two decades and would be difficult for any buyer for finance. That is because Twitter does not have a financial profile that is typical of debt-fueled acquisitions.

In most leveraged buyout deals, companies have large and steady cash flows. But Twitter’s business has been inconsistent, with revenue growth slowing. Its earnings excluding costs such as interest totals only about $ 1 billion a year, and financiers are generally loath to pile too much debt with companies that generate earnings of that size.

There are also obstacles especially to Mr. Musk. In 2018, Mr. Musk tried to take Tesla private and tweeted “funding secured,” propelling Tesla shares higher. He did not have financing prepared for such a deal. The Securities and Exchange Commission later filed a securities fraud lawsuit against him, accusing him of misleading investors. Mr. Musk paid $ 20 million fine and agreed to step aside as Tesla’s chairman for three years.

Some investors are wary of getting involved in financing Musk’s Twitter bid, concerned about the risks of teaming up with the mercurial billionaire and a company as politically contentious as Twitter, said one person with knowledge of the situation. For banks, offering a loan against Tesla stock is also risky, given the stock’s volatility.

Mr. Musk has not publicly articulated his business plan for Twitter, though he has spoken about reversing Twitter’s moderation policies and providing additional transparency about how its algorithms work. He has made it clear that profit is not his focus, potentially complicating efforts to invest with traditional Wall Street financiers.

“This is not a way to make money,” Mr. Musk said in an interview at a TED conference last week. “My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important.”

Mr. Musk’s offer for Twitter stands at $ 54.20 a share. Several analysts have said the company’s board is likely to accept only an offer of $ 60 a share or more. Twitter’s stock rose above $ 70 a share last year when the company announced goals to double its revenue, though its stock has since fallen to around $ 45 as investors have questioned its ability to meet those targets.

Mr. Musk, who started accumulating Twitter shares in January, was invited to join the company’s board this month. At the time, Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s chief executive, and other board members said they welcomed Mr. Musk as a director given his use of the platform. Mr. Musk has more than 82.5 million Twitter followers and tweets frequently.

Mr. Musk and Mr. Agrawal also shares similar perspectives on how to decentralize Twitter so that users can gain more control over their social media feeds, a tactic that both men see as a way of promoting more free speech. That move would also reduce the burden on Twitter, which has questions about toxic content and misinformation, to decide what posts can stay up and what should be taken down.

But then Mr. Musk rejected the board seat and began to take over the company.

Twitter, which has brought in advisers from Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, has also been weighing whether to invite bids from other potential buyers, two people close to the company said. At least one interested party, the private equity firm Thoma Bravo, has emerged, though it is unclear whether it will eventually submit an offer.

Kate Conger, Mike Isaac and Jack Ewing contributed reporting.

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