By Julia Horowitz, CNN Business
The world’s richest man wasn’t convinced he’d be successful in his bid to buy Twitter, one of the most influential social media companies on the planet.
But Tesla CEO Elon Musk pulled it off. On Monday, Twitter announced that it had reached a deal to sell the company to Musk for $54.20 a share, days after Musk announced he’d lined up $46.5 billion in financing.
The agreement is one of the biggest deals to take a company private ever recorded, according to data from Dealogic.
It sparked instant debate — much of it, naturally, playing out on Twitter.
If the deal goes through, Musk will join a growing list of billionaires who have tapped their fortunes to scoop up high-profile media properties. And given Musk’s commitment to creating “an inclusive arena for free speech,” his ownership could also have major ramifications for public discourse, thanks to Twitter’s role in steering conversation online.
Investors, meanwhile, have been busy drilling down on other questions. Here are a few that still need answers.
Will one of the biggest leveraged buyouts in history actually close?
Musk doesn’t own any other big media properties, which means regulators that focus on antitrust issues are unlikely to hold up the deal.
“We do not expect any major regulatory hurdles to the deal getting done,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives.
But that doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to cross the finish line. Twitter shares closed at $51.70 on Monday, almost 5% below the deal price. That could point to some skepticism that the transaction becomes final.
Bloomberg reports that Musk will have to pay a termination fee “if the deal falls apart or if he walks away.”
Could Musk be forced to sell Tesla stock?
Musk persuaded banks including Morgan Stanley to cough up more than $25 billion in debt financing.
But he still needs to put up roughly $21 billion on his own. Where will he get the money?
Most of Musk’s wealth is tied up in Tesla stock. That’s raised the specter that he could offload a portion of his 17% stake to fund the Twitter deal.
How involved will Musk be?
Musk has his hands full running the world’s most valuable automaker as well as private space company SpaceX. His tunnel-building startup, The Boring Company, is also growing. Last week, it announced new funding from venture capital firms like Sequoia, valuing the firm at nearly $6 billion.
So far, Musk has been vague in outlining his plans to overhaul Twitter and the role he’ll take. He may deputize someone else to fulfill his pledge to prioritize free speech, add features, make the company’s algorithms open source and defeat “spam bots.”
But if he gets too involved, it could affect investor confidence in Tesla, given how closely Musk’s cult of personality is tied to the company’s share price. And if Musk brings back former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey — who tweeted support for Musk on Monday — that could spark a shakeup at Square parent Block, which Dorsey currently heads up.
Is a bear market coming for US stocks?
US stocks have stumbled this year, breaking the stunning momentum they built during the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Could an even sharper sell-off be on the cards?
The latest: Morgan Stanley is warning clients that the S&P 500 could enter a bear market, which marks a 20% decline from recent highs, my CNN Business colleague Matt Egan reports.
Investors have “very few places to hide” in markets right now, strategists led by Mike Wilson wrote Monday.
“The market has been so picked over at this point, it’s not clear where the next rotation lies,” Wilson’s team wrote. “In our experience, when that happens, it usually means the overall index is about to fall sharply with almost all stocks falling in unison.”
Step back: The S&P 500, the broadest gauge of US stocks, has been in a bull market since late March 2020, when the Federal Reserve came to the rescue with unprecedented support amid the deep recession caused by Covid-19.
But it’s faltered as the Fed has started to hike interest rates to fight the highest inflation in four decades. Price increases have been made worse by the war in Ukraine.
The index has been in the red for three straight weeks. It’s currently down about 10% from record highs set in early January.
There’s precedent: The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite, whose top stocks were some of the biggest beneficiaries of the Covid rally, fell into a bear market in early March.
Morgan Stanley agrees that inflation may finally be at or near its peak. The bank doesn’t see this as a positive catalyst for stocks, though, since it will probably feed into a period of lower economic growth, which will weigh on corporate earnings.
Small businesses plan to keep hiking prices
Small companies are getting slammed by inflation, as higher costs for materials, transportation and labor push up the cost of doing business.
According to a new survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, a trade group, 93% of US small business owners say inflation is having a “substantial” or “moderate” impact on their operations.
One consequence? Many plan to keep passing these price increases along to their customers to cushion the blow.
That could keep prices elevated in the coming months, even though some economists are hopeful the worst of the inflation problem may be behind us.
See here: Four in 10 US small businesses polled by the NFIB said they intended to raise selling prices by 10% or more. In March, US consumer prices rose by 8.5% compared to the previous year.
Big businesses have greater leeway to fight inflation, since they have more leverage when negotiating bulk orders with suppliers. Over the past year, some companies like Walmart and Costco have even chartered their own ships to avoid shipping problems.
But smaller firms are more constrained, which can mean they feel pressure to hike prices in even larger increments when their costs jump.
3M, General Electric, JetBlue and CNN parent Warner Bros. Discovery report results before US markets open. Google’s Alphabet, Chipotle, Microsoft and Visa follow after the close.
Also today: New US home sales for March and consumer confidence for April arrive at 10 a.m. ET.
Coming tomorrow: Earnings from Boeing, Harley-Davidson, Spotify and PayPal.
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