Twitter shareholders endorse Elon Musk's US$44b buyout deal

While shareholder approval was required to finalise the deal with Musk, its consummation is far from a sure thing. PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO - Twitter shareholders approved billionaire Elon Musk's proposed US$44 billion (S$60 billion) buyout, paving the way for a trial next month to determine the deal's fate.

A majority of Twitter shareholders voted in favour of accepting Musk's US$54.20-a-share offer to acquire the social-networking company, according to a preliminary vote count read on Tuesday.

Musk made the bid in April and has since sought to rescind it.

Twitter's board - along with two prominent advisory firms - had encouraged investors to ratify the deal. The company's shares are trading at US$41.77, well below Musk's proposed price, and were little changed by the vote.

The shareholder meeting lasted seven minutes, with polls open for about three minutes. Shareholders could also submit votes for several weeks ahead of the meeting, and Twitter sent numerous messages encouraging them to vote ahead of time.

While shareholder approval was required to finalise the deal, its consummation is far from a sure thing. Musk in July said he was cancelling the agreement, claiming that Twitter misled him about the size of the company's user base and the number of bots and spam accounts.

Twitter denies those accusations, and sued Musk in a Delaware court to force him to complete the acquisition.

Musk then counter-sued the company.

Lawyers for both Musk and San Francisco-based Twitter for weeks have been fighting over witnesses, evidence and even the court date. The trial is currently set for the week of Oct 17 in Delaware Chancery Court.

From Twitter's perspective, the shareholder vote approving the transaction was all Musk needed to move forward with the deal. Musk disagrees, and has asked for more disclosures from the company.

Musk has recently sought to bolster his case by citing revelations from a former senior Twitter executive-turned-whistle-blower who came forward at the end of August.

Peiter "Mudge" Zatko, Twitter's former head of security, alleges that the company is in violation of multiple regulatory requirements, has lax security practices and has given misleading information about the number of bots on its service.

Twitter denies Zatko's claims, calling him a disgruntled former employee who was fired for poor performance.

Last week Judge Kathaleen St J. McCormick, who is set to oversee the trial in October, said Musk could use some of Zatko's whistle-blower complaint in his argument against Twitter, but denied his attempt to push the trial back.

Zatko testified before a Senate committee earlier on Tuesday, saying his former employer is reckless with personal user data and saddled with outdated security tools.

Multiple US senators said that there needs to be more formal regulatory oversight for tech companies like Twitter, though nothing specific was put into motion. BLOOMBERG

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