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    Friday, January 27, 2023

    Elon Musk Considers Raising $3 Billion to Pay Off Part of Twitter Debt -Report

    Elon Musk’s team has held talks with investors about raising up to $3 billion to repay some of the $13 billion in debt tacked onto Twitter Inc. as part of his buyout of the company, people familiar with the matter said.

    In December, Mr. Musk’s representatives discussed selling up to $3 billion in new Twitter shares, people familiar with the matter said.

    Mr. Musk’s team has said to people familiar with the finances of the company that an equity raise, if successful, could be used to pay down an unsecured portion of the debt that carries the highest interest rate within the $13 billion Twitter loan package, people familiar with the matter said.

    Paying off the debt would provide welcome financial relief to Twitter, which has struggled to keep advertisers on the platform. In November, Mr. Musk said Twitter had suffered “a massive drop in revenue” and was losing over $4 million a day. He also said that month that bankruptcy was a possibility for the company, although Mr. Musk later shared more upbeat prospects for the company, saying he expects Twitter to be roughly cash-flow break-even in 2023 as he has slashed some 6,000 jobs.

    The state of the fundraising talks couldn’t be learned. In mid-December, Mr. Musk’s team reached out to new and existing backers about raising new equity capital at the original Twitter takeover price.

    Mr. Musk’s advisers had hoped to reach a deal to raise cash at the initial takeover price by the end of 2022, according to an email sent to prospective investors at the time. However, some prospective backers said they balked at the terms, given concerns about Twitter’s financial performance. The Musk team didn’t specify a funding amount or purpose for the fundraise in the email.

    Fidelity, one of the co-investors that backed Mr. Musk’s takeover of Twitter, wrote down its stake in Twitter by 56% in November, public filings show, suggesting Mr. Musk would face an uphill battle raising funds at the original valuation from outside investors. The banks holding the $13 billion in debt that backed his takeover of the company haven’t yet received any formal notice of any repayments, people familiar with the matter said.

    Representatives for Mr. Musk didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    Twitter’s unsecured bridge loans, which total $3 billion, are the most expensive portion of the $13 billion debt package Mr. Musk incurred as part of his $44 billion acquisition of the social-media company. They carry an interest rate of 10% plus the secured overnight financing rate, a benchmark interest rate that has shot up in recent months and currently sits at 4.3%.

    With every quarter that passes without Twitter refinancing the debt, the interest rate goes up by an additional 0.50 percentage point, according to regulatory filings. Twitter’s first quarterly interest payment is due at the end of the month, the filings show.

    Twitter’s annual interest burden has increased by over $100 million since he announced the takeover deal last April, as the overnight rate has increased. At the time of the announcement, the overnight rate was 0.3%.

    Twitter’s total interest expense has been estimated to be roughly $1.25 billion a year, according to a December analysis by Jeffrey Davies, a former credit analyst and founder of data provider Enersection LLC. By that estimate, Twitter is incurring roughly $3.4 million every day in interest-payment obligations.

    On Dec. 13, Mr. Musk tweeted “beware of debt in turbulent macroeconomic conditions, especially when Fed keeps raising rates.”

    Repaying the unsecured bridge loans would leave Twitter with a debt burden that has much more manageable interest rates. Twitter’s $6.5 billion in term loans and $3 billion in secured bridge loans carry an annual interest burden of 4.75% and 6.75%, respectively, plus the overnight rate, according to public filings.

    A potential deal would also provide a degree of relief for the banks that backed Mr. Musk’s takeover of the social-media company and that intended to sell the debt to third-party investors but changed course after deteriorating market conditions sank Wall Street’s appetite for exposure to risky bonds and loans.

    The $13 billion of Twitter debt on bank balance sheets, one of the biggest “hung deals” of all time, has helped contribute to a drag in the number of mergers and acquisitions as banks’ firepower to back deals is tied up.

    Morgan Stanley, the lead bank on Twitter’s debt deal, has approximately $807 million in unsecured bridge debt on its balance sheet, while Bank of America Corp., Barclays PLC and MUFG Bank Ltd. each have approximately $623 million of exposure, according to public documents and calculations by The Wall Street Journal.

    Each of the four banks have more than $2 billion in other Twitter debt commitments on their balance sheets separate from the unsecured bridge facility, including term loans and other secured debt, the documents show.

    Representatives of those banks declined to comment. - WSJ

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