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Musk lugs sink into Twitter HQ as $44B deal deadline looms

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By Tom Krisher And Matt O’brien in San Francisco

Elon Musk posted a video Wednesday showing him strolling into Twitter headquarters ahead of a Friday deadline to close his $44 billion deal to buy the company.

Musk also changed his Twitter profile t o refer to himself as “Chief Twit” and his location as Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters, a building that he once wondered should be closed and converted into a homeless shelter because so few employees were coming into the office under the company’s remote work policy. The video showed him carrying a sink through a lobby area.

“Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in!” he tweeted.

The Delaware Chancery Court had given both sides until Friday close the deal or face a November trial that could end the same outcome, only with a judge forcing Musk to go forward with the original deal.

Despite Musk’s splashy entry to headquarters, it wasn’t clear whether his purchase of Twitter had been finalized. Twitter confirmed that Musk’s video tweet was real but wouldn’t comment further. Alex Spiro, Musk’s lead lawyer, didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

Robert Anderson, a law professor at Pepperdine University, said he fully expects the deal to close by Friday’s deadline but didn’t make much of Musk’s video.

“I think he’s just visiting the headquarters, and I don’t see anything unusual about it, other than that he brought a sink,” Anderson said.

Musk had been expected to visit Twitter this week and is expected to return again Friday if the deal is finalized, according to an internal memo cited in a report by Bloomberg News.

The Washington Post reported last week that Musk told prospective investors that he plans to cut three quarters of Twitter’s 7,500 workers when he becomes owner of the company. The newspaper cited documents and unnamed sources familiar with the deliberation.

One of Musk’s biggest obstacles to closing the deal was keeping in place the financing pledged roughly six months ago.

A group of banks, including Morgan Stanley and Bank of America, signed on earlier this year to loan $12.5 billion of the money Musk needed to buy Twitter and take it private. Solid contracts with Musk bound the banks to the financing, although changes in the economy and debt markets since April have likely made the terms less attractive. Musk even said his investment group would be buying Twitter for more than it’s worth.

Less clear is what’s happening with the billions of dollars pledged to Musk by investors who would get ownership stakes in Twitter. Musk’s original slate of equity partners included an array of partners ranging from the billionaire’s tech world friends with like-minded ideas about Twitter’s future, such as Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, to funds controlled by Middle Eastern royalty.

The more equity investors kick in for the deal, the less Musk has to pay on his own. Most of his wealth is tied up in shares of Tesla, the electric car company that he runs. Since April, he has sold more than $15 billion worth of Tesla stock, presumably to pay his share. More sales could be coming.

Musk, 51, has shared few concrete details about his plans for the social media platform. While he’s touted free speech and derided spam bots since agreeing to buy the company in April, what he actually wants to do about either remains a mystery.

Although Musk’s tweets and statements have been cryptic, technology analysts have speculated that Musk wants to use Twitter to help re-create a version of China’s WeChat service, which allows users to do video chats, message, stream video, scan bar codes and make payments.

He gave a little more detail during Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting in August, telling the crowd at a factory near Austin, Texas, that he uses Twitter frequently and knows the product well. “I think I’ve got a good sense of where to point the engineering team with Twitter to make it radically better,” he said.

Musk’s flirtation with buying Twitter appeared to begin in late March. That’s when Twitter said he contacted members of its board — including co-founder Jack Dorsey — and told them he was buying up shares and was interested in either joining the board, taking Twitter private or starting a competitor.

Then, on April 4, he revealed in a regulatory filing that he had become the company’s largest shareholder after acquiring a 9% stake worth about $3 billion.

At first, Twitter offered Musk a seat on its board. But six days later, CEO Parag Agrawal tweeted that Musk would not be joining the board after all. His bid to buy the company quickly followed.

Inside Twitter, Musk’s offer was met with confusion and falling morale, especially after Musk publicly criticized one of Twitter’s top lawyers involved in content-moderation decisions.

In July, Musk abruptly reversed course, announcing that he was abandoning his bid to buy Twitter. His stated reason: Twitter hadn’t been straightforward about its problem with fake accounts he dubbed “spam bots.” Twitter sued Musk in Delaware Chancery Court to force the deal through. Two weeks before a 5-day trial was scheduled to begin, Musk changed his mind again, saying that he wanted to complete the deal after all.

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Share debacle a rare setback for Indian tycoon Adani

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By Krutika Pathi in New Delhi

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian billionaire Gautam Adani grinned as he posed this week for photos with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu after acquiring one of the country’s main ports, in Haifa.

“I promise you that in the years to come, we will transform the skyline we see around us,” said Adani, his manner upbeat even as his business empire was losing billions. Investors have been dumping Adani shares for more than a week after U.S. short-selling firm Hindenburg Research put out a report alleging his businesses have engaged in fraud and stock price manipulation. The Adani group has denied this.

Before the debacle, Adani, 60, was Asia’s richest man and the third wealthiest in the world, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. Not anymore.

The massive losses are a rare setback for the coal mining tycoon from western India’s Gujarat state and raise questions about what lies ahead.

Expansion has been at the heart of Adani’s success story. The son of a middle-class family in the Gujarat capital, Ahmedabad, he quit college to become a diamond trader in the country’s financial capital, Mumbai. He returned home to join his brother in importing plastics before establishing Adani Enterprises in the 1980s, trading in everything from shoes to buckets.

Adani shifted to investing in ports, construction and coal mining as India opened up its economy in the 1990s. A new middle class emerged and the ambitious businessman placed bets on providing energy to serve them.

Adani’s first big project, Mundra Port, is now India’s largest commercial port and he is the country’s biggest private port operator. Within a decade, he also became India’s largest developer and operator of coal mines.

Today, Adani companies also operate airports in major cities, build roads, generate electricity, manufacture defense equipment, develop agricultural drones, sell cooking oil and run a media outlet. He has his eyes set on becoming the world’s largest renewable energy player by 2030.

Citing market volatility, late Wednesday his flagship Adani Enterprises scrapped a $2.5 billion share offering that, despite the bloodletting in the group’s shares and a 28% plunge that day in its own share price, had been oversubscribed.

In a video address Thursday, Adani said the share offering was canceled to “insulate investors from potential losses.”

“For me, the interest of my investors is paramount and everything else is secondary,” he said.

The share offering was seen as a test of investor confidence in the self-made industrialist, whose ascent has been celebrated as a symbol of India’s economic ambitions. The Adani Group said in a statement that canceling the offering would not “have any impact on our existing operations and future plans.”

The Adani Group said its balance sheet was “very healthy” and its history of servicing debt was “impeccable.”

Still, Brian Freitas, a New Zealand-based analyst with Periscope Analytics who has researched the Adani Group, said the collapse in share prices for India’s second-largest conglomerate may hinder its future plans for expansion.

“It’s going to be difficult for them to raise new money,” he said.

Adani shares are still losing value. Shares in Adani Enterprises tumbled 27% Thursday, while stock in six other Adani companies fell 5%-10%.

The tycoon, who favors a plain white shirt and dark trousers over fancy dress and is said to be affable and quiet spoken, slid from being the world’s third richest man to the 13th as his fortune sank to $72 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. Prior to the Hindenburg report, his net worth was about $120 billion.

More vitally, the company is now without the funds it had hoped to raise in this week’s offering. Companies often launch such share offerings to finance growth while reducing debt.

“Thanks to the short-seller, Adani’s plans will get slowed down significantly,” said R.N. Bhaskar, a journalist who wrote a biography on Adani.

Analysts say that rapid expansion has largely been fueled by borrowing. The group’s debt stands at $30 billion, out of which $9 billion is from Indian banks, the group’s chief financial officer said recently.

After the stock rout of the past week, lenders may deem his group high risk and toughen their criteria for borrowing, like demanding higher interest rates or more collateral, said Freitas.

“Equity investors are going to be wary because the stock isn’t doing well — if they can’t raise equity, they will have to go to the debt market,” he added. “Given the situation, foreign lenders will think twice before lending any new money to Adani.”

Despite Adani’s longstanding ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a fellow Gujarati, and other powerful politicians, the government has so far remained silent on his recent troubles even as pressure from the political opposition for an investigation into Adani’s situation grows.

In recent years, Adani has pumped money into sectors like agriculture, defense and renewable energy — all seen as high priorities for the Indian government.

Like Adani’s commitment to the port in Israel’s Haifa, many of the group’s overseas infrastructure projects, in countries such as Sri Lanka and Tanzania, have served as an Indian counterweight to rival China’s holdings.

The Haifa deal was a coup for India, located close to another port managed by the Shanghai International Port Group.

“India is working with great fervor with Israel on defense and technology, and Adani now has a port there. You think the Indian government can sniff at that?” said Bhaskar. “The thing is, you can’t wish away Adani — because he is indispensable at this point.”

He expects Adani to remain undaunted.

“The more challenging a situation gets, the more defiant and creative he becomes to overcome it,” Bhaskar said.

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Senate passes Liberals’ controversial online streaming act with a dozen amendments

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By Mickey Djuric in Ottawa

Big tech companies that offer online streaming services could soon be required to contribute to Canadian content as a controversial Liberal bill gets one step closer to becoming law.

The Senate has passed the online streaming act known as Bill C-11 with a dozen amendments following a lengthy study by senators.

The bill would update Canada’s broadcasting rules to reflect online streaming giants such as YouTube, Netflix and Spotify, and require them to contribute to Canadian content and make it accessible to users in Canada — or face steep penalties.

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says he hopes the House of Commons will pass the bill next week after it reviews the Senate’s changes.

Senators made amendments intended to protect user-generated content and highlight the promotion of Indigenous languages and Black content creators.

They also included a change that would prohibit CBC from producing sponsored content, and another that would require companies to verify users’ ages before they access sexually-explicit material.

Rodriguez said Thursday that the Liberal government would not accept all of the Senate’s recommendations, but he didn’t say which ones he disagrees with.

“We’ll see when the bill comes back. There are amendments that have zero impact on the bill. And others that do, and those, we will not accept them,” the minister said Thursday during a Canadian Media Producers Association panel.

The Senate also removed a clause in the bill that Sen. Paula Simons described as giving “extraordinary new powers to the government to make political decisions about things.”

Ian Scott, the former chair of Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, had told a Senate committee that some provisions in the bill did move the balance point “slightly closer to lessening the independence” of the regulator — though he insisted that it would remain independent.

The CRTC, now under the leadership of Vicky Eatrides, will be tasked with enforcing the bill’s provisions.

The Senate passed the bill on the anniversary of its introduction in the House of Commons.

Between the House of Commons and Senate, there have been approximately 218 witnesses, 43 meetings, 119 briefs and 73 proposed amendments, said Rodriguez.

“It’s the longest bill,” he said.

The proposed law has come under intense scrutiny amid accusations from companies and critics who said it left too much room for government control over user-generated content and social-media algorithms.

Rodriguez said tech giants can get creative with ways they promote Canadian content, such as with billboards, advertising or, if they so choose, tweaks to their algorithms.

The bill has also caught the attention of the United States. Its embassy in Ottawa recently said that it is holding consultations with U.S. companies that it is concerned could face discrimination if the bill passes.

Last week, two U.S. senators called for a trade crackdown on Canada over Bill C-11, saying that the prospective law flouts trade agreements.

“I’m not worried, because we think it complies with trade obligations,” Rodriguez said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2023.

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