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By taking Twitter private, Musk makes daring bet

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Most companies taken private have positive cash flows, but Twitter posted losses in the first two quarters of 2022

Most companies taken private have positive cash flows, but Twitter posted losses in the first two quarters of 2022 – Copyright AFP Hector RETAMAL

Thomas URBAIN

Elon Musk’s decision to pull Twitter off the stock market allows him to make major changes quickly, but it also takes the company more heavily into debt, a risky choice for a money-losing business.

It is a long-established strategy with notable successes and failures, from computer manufacturer Dell (a success) to toy stores Toys “R” Us (a failure).

But Twitter “is very different from a traditional buyout” of a company that delists from the market, said Steven Kaplan of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Most such takeovers are of companies with positive cash flows, Kaplan said, but the social network is losing money — having posted losses in the first two quarters of 2022.

The equation is further complicated by Elon Musk’s $13 billion in loans, which will have to be repaid by the San Francisco company, not by the entrepreneur personally.

According to a calculation made by AFP, Twitter will have to disburse a little less than $1 billion from the first year as interest and principal, a high amount for a group whose turnover reached only $5 billion in 2021.

“That debt is tricky when you’re losing money. So there’ll be a lot of pressure to cut costs and increase revenue so that they can make debt payments,” said Kaplan, a finance professor. Otherwise, Musk will need to find funds to avoid bankruptcy.

The entrepreneur on Friday laid off about half of Twitter’s employees and is seeking new sources of revenue, including an optional subscription fee of $8 per month for those wanting a verified account.

Further development of Twitter may require an infusion of capital, more difficult to raise, in theory, by a unlisted company.

“I don’t think you can raise any more debt,” said Erik Gordon, an entrepreneurship expert at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, but in this case “there is a Musk factor… You tweet a few times and you know, bring in the money.”

– ‘Radical changes’ –

Another idiosyncratic element is that most such deals “are initiated either by a financial logic or an industrial logic,” whereas Elon Musk “didn’t have one,” he said.

“He just was unhappy with the way Twitter was treating free speech” and concluded that he could “manage it better,” Gordon said.

As a general rule, an exit from the market is followed by “radical changes” at a company, said Sreedhar Bharath, professor of finance at Arizona State University, and those changes may not be readily apparent because the company no longer has an obligation to communicate publicly.

“The company is shielded from the punishment meted out by financial markets if they do not like the changes,” he said. “Some might say the markets have an excessive focus on the next quarter results” and managers of newly privatized firms can “pursue long-term goals” without fretting about the short term.

“But with the high public profile of Twitter, key decisions are likely to become public,” noted Jagadeesh Sivadasan of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “This was evident for the post-acquisition decisions regarding firing of key officers.”

A study published in 2019 by two researchers at California State Polytechnic University that looked at nearly 500 deals between 1980 and 2006, found that about 20 percent of large companies undergoing leveraged buyouts filed for bankruptcy within 10 years, compared with two percent for a sample of other companies.

“Most of them have done better than public companies,” said Gordon, “but they don’t get a lot of publicity… The big failures get a lot of attention and create this idea that the debt kills the company.”

“Most of the time, it works which is why people keep doing it,” Gordon added.

“Musk is one of the most creative people on the planet,” able to build three totally different companies, PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX, all of which have reached more than $100 billion in valuation, Kaplan said.

“He’s a talent magnet… He’s going to attract (to Twitter) real talent that hasn’t been there for a while… I wouldn’t bet against him.”

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Florida lawmakers push to ban social media for children under 16

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Vietnam plans to ask all social media users on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube to verify their identities

Social media. — © AFP/File Olivier DOULIERY

Florida moved Thursday towards enacting what would be one of the strictest bans on children’s use of social media in the United States after the state Senate passed a bill to keep those under 16 off such platforms.

The controversial bill seeks to protect children’s mental health against the “addictive features” of such platforms, amid fears over online dangers including from sexual predators, cyber bullying and teen suicide.

The legislation, which was approved 23-14, will now go back to the state House. It has already passed there, with the House speaker championing the legislation, but changes made in the Senate need to be approved in the lower chamber.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has expressed concerns over whether banning social media for children under the age of 16 violates parents’ rights – Copyright AFP Philip FONG

It would then have to be signed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who has expressed skepticism about the legislation. Similar efforts by other states have previously been blocked by courts.

“We’re talking about businesses that are using addictive features to engage in mass manipulation of our children to cause them harm,” the bill’s sponsor, Republican Erin Grall, told the Florida Senate on Thursday.

But DeSantis, who has previously said he is sympathetic to fears over the impact of social media on children, voiced concerns about parental rights.

“A parent has the right to opt in,” he told a press conference Thursday.

The governor has argued many times that parents should have more control over decisions affecting their children, particularly in education.

Under DeSantis Florida has passed laws to curtail teaching about sex education and gender identity in schools and to eradicate diversity programs in state-funded universities.

Scores of books have been removed from the state’s school library shelves in recent months, deemed inappropriate for children by conservative parents and school boards.

Some critics say such a law targeting social media use would violate the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech.

Last year a federal judge blocked an Arkansas initiative that sought to require parental consent to open a social media account.

Most social media networks already have a minimum age of 13 to open an account, though they do little to ensure compliance with the provision.

If the regulation is approved, the platforms will have to block children under the age of 16 from creating accounts and close those already opened.

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Solar Flares Or Sabotage? Internet Theories On Today’s Massive Cell Phone Outage

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Solar Flares Or Sabotage? Internet Theories On Today's Massive Cell Phone Outage

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Massive cell phone outages across America are being reported today by customers of AT&T, Cricket Wireless, Verizon, T-Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Boost Mobile, US Cellular, and Straight Talk Wireless, according to data from Downdetector, an online platform that monitors connectivity. That story and more news you need to read today, inside.

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Meta Expands Access to Instagram’s Creator Marketplace

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Meta Expands Access to Instagram’s Creator Marketplace

Meta has announced that it’s finally expanding access to its Creator Marketplace tool, which will give more businesses the capacity to search for creators to work with on their Instagram campaigns.

Meta first launched its Creator Marketplace back in 2022, enabling U.S.-based brands to search and connect with relevant platform influencers based on a range of qualifiers, including focus topics, follower counts, location, etc.

And now, businesses in the following regions will also be able to access the tool:

  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • Japan
  • India
  • Brazil

In addition to this, Meta also says that Chinese export brands will also be invited to connect with onboarded creators in countries outside of China.

Which is interesting, considering Meta’s tenuous history with the CCP’s “Great Firewall”, but the deal here relates to Chinese businesses operating in regions outside of their homeland, which is somewhat separate to Meta’s internal dealings.

In addition to expanding access, Meta’s also rolling new machine learning-based recommendations within Creator Marketplace, which will use Instagram data to help brands more easily discover creators who are the best fit for their campaigns.

Instagram Creator Marketplace

As you can see in this example, the new recommendations will highlight accounts that have strong engagement rates in your niche, have mentioned your brand in the past, or have produced good results for similar businesses.

That could make it easier to find the right fit, or at the least, to give you more options to consider in your process.

Branded Content collaborations can be highly effective on IG, by using the established expertise and experience of creators who have already built a following in the app, and know what works, to boost your promotions.

By working with the right creators, with connection to your target audience, you can secure valuable endorsement within key communities, which can help to germinate your branding in the right communities.

Brands can check out Instagram’s creator marketplace in Meta Business Suite, with access coming to these new regions shortly.



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