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Musk makes US$43 billion offer for Twitter to build ‘arena for free speech’

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk took aim at Twitter Inc with a US$43 billion cash takeover offer on Thursday (Apr 14), with the Tesla CEO saying the social media company needs to be taken private to grow and become a platform for free speech.

“I think it’s very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech,” Musk said at a TED Talk in Vancouver when asked about why he made the bid.

Musk, already the San Francisco-based company’s second-largest shareholder, made the bid in a letter to Twitter’s board on Wednesday. The offer was made public in a regulatory filing on Thursday.

He also told the TED Talk audience that he was not sure he will actually be able to acquire Twitter. Even so, Musk said, he had sufficient assets to make the purchase.

“Having a public platform that is massively trusted, and broadly inclusive, is extremely important to the future of civilization,” Musk added.

His offer price of US$54.20 per share represents a 38 per cent premium to Twitter’s April 1 close, the last trading day before his 9.1 per cent stake in the social media platform was made public.

Musk – the world’s richest person with a US$273.6 billion fortune according to a Forbes tally – rejected an invitation to join Twitter’s board this week after disclosing his stake, a move analysts said signalled his takeover intentions as a board seat would have limited his shareholding to just under 15 per cent.

Investors were not immediately convinced. Shares of Twitter about were flat in afternoon trading. Some argued Musk’s bid undervalued the micro-blogging platform that has become a global means of communication for individuals and world leaders.

Saudi Arabia’s prince Alwaleed bin Talal tweeted from his verified account about the deal. Describing himself as one of the “largest & long-term shareholders of Twitter,” he said Musk’s offer undervalued the company and he rejected it.

Musk, for his part, told Twitter it was his “best and final offer” and said he would reconsider his investment if the board rejects it.

“Since making my investment I now realise the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company,” Musk said in his letter to Twitter Chairman Bret Taylor.

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