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Elon Musk threatens to pull out of $44 billion Twitter deal over sharing of user data

Elon Musk threatened to walk away from his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, accusing the social media company of “thwarting” his requests to learn more about its user base.

In a letter filed with regulators, Mr Musk said he was entitled to do his own measurement of spam accounts.

The letter formalises a dispute that has simmered for weeks after Mr Musk declared the deal “on hold” pending further information.

Twitter has defended its estimates.

But Mr Musk has said he believes spam and fake accounts represent a far greater share than the less than 5% of daily users that Twitter reports publicly.

“As Twitter’s prospective owner, Mr Musk is clearly entitled to the requested data to enable him to prepare for transitioning Twitter’s business to his ownership and to facilitate his transaction financing. To do both, he must have a complete and accurate understanding of the very core of Twitter’s business model – its active user base,” lawyer Mike Ringler wrote in the letter.

“Based on Twitter’s behaviour to date, and the company’s latest correspondence in particular, Mr Musk believes the company is actively resisting and thwarting his information rights,” the letter said.

“This is a clear material breach of Twitter’s obligations under the merger agreement and Mr Musk reserves all rights resulting therefrom, including his right not to consummate the transaction and his right to terminate the merger agreement.”

The dispute has raised more doubts about the future of the takeover, which Twitter’s board approved in April.

Twitter has said Mr Musk waived typical rights to due diligence in his eagerness to clinch the deal.

But last month, Mr Musk raised the issue of the spam accounts on social media, saying the deal was on hold but he remained committed to the acquisition.

Analysts have said the Tesla boss might be using the issue to try to renegotiate the price or even walk away. They said Mr Musk’s decision to raise the issue on social media was unconventional, making it difficult to read how serious he was.