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Elon Musk suggested that a lower price for Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) may be appropriate as he and CEO Parag Agrawal quarreled over the company’s estimates of spam accounts on Monday, according to an attendee at a private conference where Musk was speaking.

Twitter shares extended losses in late afternoon trading following Musk’s comments, which came at a conference in Miami that was closed to the press.

Shares dropped more than 8 per cent to close at $37.39, lower than their level the day before Musk revealed his Twitter stake in early April, sowing doubts that the billionaire entrepreneur would proceed with his $44 billion acquisition of the company at the agreed price.

Agrawal tweeted earlier on Monday that internal estimates of spam accounts on the social media platform for the last four quarters were “well under 5 per cent,” responding to days of criticism by Musk of the company’s handling of phony accounts.

Twitter’s estimate, which has stayed the same since 2013, could not be reproduced externally given the need to use both public and private information to determine whether an account is spam, he added.

Musk, who on Friday said the deal was “temporarily on hold” pending information on spam accounts, responded to Agrawal’s defense of the company’s methodology with a poop emoji.

“So how do advertisers know what they’re getting for their money? This is fundamental to the financial health of Twitter,” Musk wrote.

Shortly after his tweets, Musk told the conference in Miami that he suspects bots – or automated accounts – make up about 20 to 25 per cent of users, according to tweets by attendees.

Musk has pledged changes to Twitter’s content moderation practices, railing against decisions like the company’s ban of former President Donald Trump as overly aggressive while pledging to crack down on “spam bots” on the platform.

Musk has called for tests of random samples of Twitter users to identify bots, and said he has yet to see “any” analysis that shows spam accounts making up less than 5 per cent of the user base.

Musk said on Sunday “there is some chance it might be over 90 per cent of daily active users.”

Independent researchers have estimated that anywhere from 9 per cent to 15 per cent of the millions of Twitter profiles are bots.

Twitter does not currently require users to register using their real identities and expressly permits automated, parody and pseudonymous profiles on the service.

It does ban impersonation and spam, and penalizes accounts when the company determines their purpose is to “deceive or manipulate others” by engaging in scams, coordinating abuse campaigns or artificially inflating engagement.

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(FILES)  Twitter’s shares soared after Tesla CEO Elon Musk disclosed on April 4, 2022, a large stake in the social media company, which he has criticized for its approach to speech rights. (Photo by Patrick Pleul / POOL / AFP)

Elon Musk said on Friday he was putting a temporary halt on his much-anticipated deal to buy Twitter, sending shares in the social media giant plunging. 

Musk, the world’s richest man and founder of automaker Tesla, had made the eradication of spam accounts and bots one of the centerpieces of his proposed $44 billion takeover of Twitter.

When the deal was announced in late April he said he wanted to make Twitter “better than ever” by “defeating the spam bots and authenticating all humans”.

But on Friday he wrote: “Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users.”

Two hours after his first tweet, Musk took to the platform again to say he was “still committed to acquisition”.

Reliable figures for the number of users are seen as vital to judge future revenue streams.

Twitter did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.

‘Horror show’

In his tweet, Musk linked to an article from May 2 referencing Twitter’s latest filing to US regulators.

The filing said an internal review had concluded Twitter had 229 million “monetizable daily active users” in the first quarter of this year, and just five percent were regarded as false or spam accounts.

Analyst Dan Ives from Wedbush said the Twitter “circus show” was likely to translate into a “Friday 13th horror show”.

“The nature of Musk creating so much uncertainty in a tweet (and not a filing) is very troubling,” he said.

Wall Street investors were likely to interpret the tweet as an attempt by Musk to pull out of the deal or trying to force a lower price, said Ives.

Market analyst Susannah Streeter of Hargreaves Landsdown said the takeover bid had been bumpy but now “risks hitting the skids”.

Friday’s initial announcement saw Twitter’s shares drop by 20 percent in early electronic trading before Wall Street opened, but Tesla’s stock rose.

‘False and misleading’

Musk is boss of both Tesla and SpaceX and is estimated to be worth $240 billion, according to Forbes.

But his style of ownership — an in particular his use of Twitter — has frequently landed him in hot water with the authorities.

He has been tangled in legal troubles ever since he tweeted in 2018 that he had enough funds to take Tesla private — a claim that a judge last month decided was “false and misleading”.

His potential stewardship of the social media platform has hit several bumps since the takeover attempt was made public, not least over the future status of Donald Trump.

The former US president was kicked off Twitter and other social networks following the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

On Wednesday, Musk said he would be open to lifting a ban on Trump’s account.

Activist groups responded by urging advertisers to boycott the platform if Musk opened the gates to abusive and misinformative posts.
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Japan’s Toshiba Corp (6502.T) said on Friday it has received interest from 10 potential investors after it solicited buyout offers.

It also announced a special dividend of 160 yen per share, worth some $545 million, in an apparent effort to placate activist shareholders it has long been at odds with.

The industrial conglomerate set up a special committee last month to explore strategic options including potential deals to go private after shareholders voted down a management-backed restructuring plan.

Toshiba said 10 investors had signed confidentiality pledges, without identifying them. It was not clear how many separate proposals it had received.

The investors have received detailed financial information and the deadline for submitting non-binding proposals is May 30.

US private equity firm Bain has sounded out multiple other Toshiba shareholders about teaming up as it prepares to make a buyout offer, sources have previously told Reuters. And Toshiba’s top shareholder, Singapore-based Effissimo Capital Management, has said it has agreed to sell its 9.9 per cent stake to Bain if it launches a tender offer.

Blackstone and KKR are considering a joint bid for Toshiba, according to media reports earlier this week.

Those three private equity firms and Canadian investment firm Brookfield were tapped by Toshiba’s strategic review committee last year to put together and submit their ideas for the conglomerate, sources have previously said.

Toshiba said it has hired JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Mizuho Financial Group Inc (8411.T) as financial advisors in addition to Nomura Holdings (8604.T).

It also has delayed board director nominations, saying it needed more time to finalise candidates. The company, which will hold its annual general meeting in June, is trying to ascertain whether there were any conflict-of-interest issues for some candidates, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Interim board chairman Satoshi Tsunakawa has been in the position on a temporary basis. Shareholders last year rejected the re-election of his predecessor, angered after an investigation found that the company’s management colluded with the Japanese government to put pressure on foreign investors.

Toshiba also forecast a 7 per cent rise in operating profit to 170 billion yen ($1.3 billion) for the year through March. That compares with a consensus estimate of 177 billion yen drawn from 11 analysts polled by Refinitiv.

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FILE - In this April 17, 2007 file photo, exhibitors work on laptop computers in front of an illuminated sign of the Google logo - Copyright © africanews JENS MEYER/AP2007

Global tech giant Google has added 24 new languages spoken by more than 300 million people to its Google Translate platform.

Ten of the new additions are in Africa, including Lingala - Democratic Republic of Congo, Twi - Ghana and Tigrinya - Eritrea.

"For years, Google Translate has helped break down language barriers and connect communities all over the world," the US-based company said.

This new addition is aimed at helping those whose languages "aren't represented in most technology", the BBC reports.

The new language update comes with Bhojpuri, which is spoken by as many as 50 million people in northern India, Nepal and Fiji, to Dhivehi with its estimated 300,000 speakers in the Maldives.

The update now brings to 133 the total number of languages available on Google Translate.

The company says the new languages also represent a technical milestone, explaining that they use a machine learning model which learns to "translate into another language without ever seeing an example."

But the company, however, admits that the technology isn't perfect as some linguists have noted problems with the languages already available.

"For many supported languages, even the largest languages in Africa that we have supported - say like Yoruba, Igbo, the translation is not great. It will definitely get the idea across but often it will lose much of the subtlety of the language," Google Translate research scientist Isaac Caswell told the BBC.

In 2020, Google Translate added five new languages to the platform in what was then its first expansion in the past few years.

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Siemens (SIEGn.DE) will quit the Russian market due to the war in Ukraine, it said on Thursday, taking a 600 million euro ($630 million) hit to its business during the second quarter, with more costs to come.

The German industrial and technology group became the latest multinational to announce losses linked to its decision to leave Russia following the Feb. 24 invasion, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.

Several companies, from brewers Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR) and Carlsberg to sportswear maker Adidas (ADSGn.DE), carmaker Renault and several banks have been counting the cost of suspending operations in or withdrawing from Russia.

Siemens Chief Executive Roland Busch described the conflict as a “turning point in history.”

“We, as a company, have clearly and strongly condemned this war,” Busch told reporters.

“We’re all moved by the war as human beings. And financial figures must take a back seat in the face of the tragedy. Nevertheless, like many other companies, we’re feeling the impact on our business.”

During the second quarter Siemens incurred 600 million euros in impairment and other charges mostly recorded in its train-making mobility business subsequent to sanctions on Russia, Siemens said.

Busch said further impacts were to be expected, mainly from non-cash charges related to the winding-down of legal entities, revaluation of financial assets and restructuring costs.

“From today’s perspective, we foresee further potential risks for net income in the low- to mid-triple-digit million range, although we can’t define an exact timeframe,” he added.

Siemens shares dropped 5 per cent in early trading as the company missed analysts’ expectations for second- quarter profit.

The Munich company employs 3,000 people in Russia, where it has been active for 170 years. It first went to Russia in 1851 to deliver devices for the telegraph line between Moscow and St Petersburg.

The country now contributes about 1 per cent of Siemens’ annual revenue, with most of the present day business concerned with maintenance and service work on high-speed trains.

Its sites in Moscow and St Petersburg are now being ramped down, Busch said.

The costs weighed on Siemens’ second quarter earnings, with net income halved to 1.21 billion euros ($1.27 billion), missing analysts’ forecasts of 1.73 billion.

The company posted industrial profit of 1.78 billion euros, down 13 per cent from a year earlier and also missing forecasts.

But demand stayed robust, with orders 22 per cent higher on a comparable basis and revenue 7 per cent higher.

As a result it confirmed its full-year outlook, with revenue comparable revenue growth of 6 per cent to 8 per cent for the full year, with a downturn in mobility expected to be compensated by faster growth in factory automation and digital buildings.

JP Morgan analyst Andreas Willi described the results as “mixed with strong orders, industry leading growth in automation and strong cash conversion.”

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Billionaire Elon Musk said he would reverse Twitter’s ban on former US President Donald Trump when he buys the social media platform, the clearest signal yet of Musk’s intention to cut moderation of the site.

Musk, the world’s richest person and chief executive of electric vehicle maker Tesla, has inked a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter. He has called himself a “free speech absolutist,” but given few specific details of his plans.

Musk is expected to become Twitter’s temporary CEO after closing the deal, Reuters previously reported, citing a source familiar with the matter.

The question of reinstating Trump has been seen as a litmus test of how far Musk will go in making changes, even though Trump himself has said he would not return.

Twitter, like other U.S.-based social media platforms, has banned various individuals for violating its policies on misinformation and glorification of violence.

Musk, speaking to a Financial Times conference, added that he and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey believe permanent bans should be “extremely rare” and reserved for accounts that operate bots or spread spam.

“Wrong and bad” tweets should be deleted or made invisible and a temporary account suspension could be appropriate, Musk said. “I think permabans just fundamentally undermine trust in Twitter as a town square where everyone can voice their opinion.”

Musk said the decision to ban Trump amplified Trump’s views among people on the political right, and he called the ban “morally wrong and flat-out stupid.”

The suspension of Trump’s account, which had more than 88 million followers, silenced his primary megaphone days before the end of his term and followed years of debate about how social media companies should moderate the accounts of powerful global leaders.

Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter shortly after the Jan. 6, 2021,attack on the U.S. Capitol. Twitter cited “the risk of further incitement of violence” in its decision.

Megan Squire, a senior fellow for data analytics at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said a permanent ban from mainstream networks, or de-platforming, has been a successful tactic in reducing the reach of abusive messaging and behaviors.

Musk has endorsed some limits, telling a European Union official on Monday that EU policy was “exactly aligned” with his own thinking on controlling illegal content. Read full story

‘OUGHT TO BE EVERYWHERE’

Conservatives, who have accused San Francisco-based Twitter of bias against right-leaning views, have cheered the prospect of Trump’s return to the platform.

Trump “ought to be everywhere he can,” Republican Senator Rick Scott told reporters when asked about Musk’s comments. “We shouldn’t have social media companies that are restricting people’s ability to get their message out.”

Senator Roy Blunt, an establishment Republican who is retiring, was one of several Republicans who said they had no opinion about the possibility of Trump’s returning to Twitter.

“But I suspect that’s a good business decision on (Musk’s) part,” Blount said with a smile.

Democrats have said Trump’s potential reinstatement could constitute a threat to democracy, although some hope Trump could upset their base and rev up turnout in the November midterm elections, with Democrats facing tough challenges in retaining their majorityin both houses of Congress.

Twitter declined to comment.

Trump previously told Fox News that he would not return to Twitter if allowed. Read full story His own social media app, Truth Social, launched on the Apple app store in late February.

Trump has revved up his messaging on the new platform after a slow start, posting about 50 times, mostly in the last week, to his 2.7 million followers. He averaged 18 tweets a day when he was president.

There was no immediate comment from a Trump spokesperson.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that Twitter’s ban on Trump was a matter for the company to decide. The Biden administration wants online platforms to protect freedom of speech but also ensure they are not forums for disinformation, she said.

During the conference, Musk said the deal to acquire Twitter could be done in two to three months in the “best-case scenario.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Twitter shares fell to a level that indicated the stock market believed it was unlikely Musk would make the acquisition for $44 billion, as he originally agreed.

Musk’s decision to buy Twitter has concerned some Tesla investors and put pressure on Tesla’s stock. Musk on Tuesday added that he would stay at Tesla “as long as I can be useful.”

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Sony Group Corp (6758.T) on Tuesday said it planned to sell 18 million PlayStation 5 consoles this business year as robust game sales helped it more than double fourth-quarter operating profit.

The Japanese company, however, warned that it could be forced to revise that production target if any new lockdowns in China to control the spread of COVID-19 make component procurement difficult.

“What I can say now is that we can procure enough components for 18 million units,” Hiroki Totoki, Sony’s chief financial officer, said at a press briefing.

Sony is using its popular PlayStation 5 games console to encourage online game downloads and sign-ups for subscription services. Last business year it sold 11.5 million units as it struggled like other consumer electronic companies with COVID 19 supply chain disruptions.

In a shift away from traditional hardware such as TVs, the company is also expanding its software business, announcing in February the acquisition of Bungle Inc, the creator of the “Halo” videogame for $3.6 billion.

Sony’s profit for the three months to March 31 rose to 138.6 billion yen ($1.06 billion) from 66.5 billion yen a year earlier. It was, however, lower than an average 147 billion yen profit estimate from 10 analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.

Earnings at its gaming and network services business almost tripled in the quarter to 55.6 billion yen. This business year Sony expects profits from the unit to fall 12 per cent as it invests in game development and spends on acquisitions.

For the full that ended March 31, earnings were also boosted by movie unit profits from the success of the “Spider-Man: No Way Home” movie.

This business year, the Japanese company forecast operating profit to fall to 1.16 trillion yen from 1.2 trillion yen. That prediction is lower than a mean 1.21 trillion yen profit based on forecasts from 23 analysts, Refinitiv data showed.

Sony on Tuesday also announced that it will buy up to 200 billion of its own shares over the next twelve months to avoid dilution of its shares from stock option compensation plans.

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Former US President Donald Trump

Tesla Inc TSLA.O Chief Executive Elon Musk said Tuesday he would reverse Twitter’s ban on former U.S. President Donald Trump, while speaking at the Financial Times Future of the Car conference.

Musk has inked a $44 billion deal to acquire the social media platform and his plans are still not clear. He has called himself a “free speech absolutist” and signaled there would be less moderation on the site.

On Tuesday, Musk that he and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey believe permanent bans should be “extremely rare” and reserved for accounts that operate bots or spread spam.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The suspension of Trump’s account, which had more than 88 million followers, silenced his primary megaphone days before the end of his term and follows years of debate about how social media companies should moderate the accounts of powerful global leaders.

Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter shortly after the Jan. 6 riot on the U.S. Capitol. Twitter cited “the risk of further incitement of violence” in its decision.

The decision amplified his views among people on the political right, Musk said, calling the ban “morally wrong and flat-out stupid.”

Trump previously told Fox News that he would not return to Twitter even if Musk purchases the platform and reinstates his account, and said he would use his own social media app called Truth Social, a Twitter-like platform that launched on the Apple app store in lat February and in which users post “truths” instead of tweets.

The platform is owned by Trump Media & Technology Group, which is led by Devin Nunes, a former Republican congressman. There was no immediate comment from a Trump spokesperson.

During the conference, Musk said the deal to acquire Twitter could be done in two to three months in the “best case scenario.” But he added Twitter has not yet filed the proxy for a shareholder vote to approve the deal, and there were still outstanding questions that needed to be resolved.

Earlier on Tuesday, Twitter shares fell to a level that indicated the stock market took the view for the first time that it was unlikely that Musk would make the acquisition for $44 billion, as he originally agreed

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Photo taken on October 18, 2021 in Moscow shows the US online social media and social networking service - KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP

A former Facebook content moderator from Kenya on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Facebook’s parent company, Meta.

The former employee has accused Meta of poor working conditions, including irregular pay and insufficient mental health support for contracted content moderators.

The ex-Facebook content moderator worked for the company through Sama, a local outsourcing agency.

The complainant, Daniel Motaung claims that Sama fired him shortly after he tried to form an employee union.

According to the Guardian news reports the first video that Motaung moderated was a beheading.

Daniel claims he has severe Post-traumatic stress disorder and his pay isn’t enough to cover his mental healthcare.

“I have been diagnosed with severe PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” Motaung told Reuters. "I am living ...a horror movie."

Motaung’s lawyers said that Meta and Sama created a dangerous and degrading environment where workers were not given the same protections as employees in other countries.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of a group seeks financial compensation.

In response, a meta spokesperson told Reuters "We take our responsibility to the people who review content for Meta seriously and require our partners to provide industry-leading pay, benefits and support. We also encourage content reviewers to raise issues when they become aware of them and regularly conduct independent audits to ensure our partners are meeting the high standards we expect.”

Sama on the hand would not comment until seeing proof of the lawsuit. Sama has previously rejected claims that its employees were paid unfairly, that the recruitment process was opaque, or that its mental health benefits were inadequate.

Globally, thousands of moderators review social media posts that could depict violence, nudity, racism or other offensive content. Many work for third party contractors rather than tech companies.

This is not the first time Meta is facing such a suit.

Last year, a California judge approved an $85 million settlement between Facebook and more than 10,000 content moderators who had accused the company of failing to protect them from psychological injuries resulting from their exposure to graphic and violent imagery.

Facebook did not admit wrongdoing in the California case but agreed to take measures to provide its content moderators, who are employed by third-party vendors, with safer work environments.
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FILES) In this file photo taken on March 22, 2022, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is pictured as he attends the start of the production at Tesla’s “Gigafactory” in Gruenheide, southeast of Berlin. (Photo by Patrick Pleul / POOL / AFP)

The new owner of microblogging app Twitter and CEO of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk has tweeted a disturbing post, suggesting that his life might be cut short.

Though he did not give full details of what his fears are, the billionaire hinted his life may be threatened.

In what seems to be a gesture of lack of regret, Musk declares that it has been nice getting to know “you”.

Although it is still unclear who “you’ in this situation refers to, speculations are that he is referring to netizens who have shown him a lot of support.

He tweeted: “If I die under mysterious circumstances, it’s been nice knowing ya”

“When confronted by a fan that his response was unpalatable Musk says he will do his best to stay alive.”

The fan said: “That’s not funny,” To which he replied “Sorry! I will do my best to stay alive.”
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Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc (FB.O) on Wednesday gave an early glimpse of its first physical store, which features a floor-to-ceiling screen for showing off games on its virtual reality headsets and rooms for testing video calling devices.

The store, set to open on May 9, is located at the main campus for Meta’s Reality Labs unit, in the Silicon Valley town of Burlingame, California. The unit is developing the hardware products the company aims to sell there, including Ray-Ban smart glasses, Portal video-calling devices and Oculus VR headsets.

With blonde wood and minimalist decor, the store design echoes the aesthetic pioneered by Apple Inc (AAPL.O) when it set up retail stores more than two decades ago.

The opening of the Meta store makes tangible what is largely a theoretical future business for the world’s largest social media company, which has invested heavily in virtual and augmented reality in a push to build the “metaverse,” a term used to describe immersive, shared virtual spaces.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg says the metaverse could be the world’s next big computing platform, but he has warned that it may take about a decade for the company’s bets to pay off.

In the meantime, with growth slowing and the company still almost entirely reliant on digital ads for revenue, Meta is cutting back on some of its long-term investments.

In addition to promoting its hardware devices to consumers, Meta is increasingly pitching them to businesses. It gave a demonstration at the store of conference calls that can feature a mix of virtual reality avatars and traditional video calling.

The company is experimenting with augmented reality technology that would enable users to join conferences as avatars via Portal, without donning headsets, said Micah Collins, a director of product management working on the enterprise tools.

Collins acknowledged the enterprise metaverse business is nascent, and a spokesperson said most usage of Horizon Workrooms, the VR conferencing technology, comes from inside Meta.

Still, Collins said, the company senses opportunity.

Although many products are still very early stage and known in their consumer context, “there’s enough there that’s giving us a lot of confidence to attack the space,” he said.

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Europe’s antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager, the architect of landmark rules to curb the power of US tech giants, called on Thursday for a global approach towards Big Tech to prevent companies taking advantage of enforcement gaps.

Vestager, who has handed out billions of euros in fines to Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) Google and launched investigations into Apple (AAPL.O), Amazon (AMZN.O) and Meta Platform’s (FB.O) Facebook, said there was global agreement on the issues raised by large digital platforms.

“This debate is no longer a hot topic amongst competition practitioners but it has strong political attention,” she told a conference organised by the German Cartel Office.

Vestager urged antitrust watchdogs around the world to work together to tackle the issue.

“Close cooperation will be necessary because we will not be short of work and we will not be short of novel services or practices to look at,” she said.

“It goes without saying that the more we, as an international competition community, are able to harmonise our approach, the less opportunity there will be for global tech giants to exploit enforcement gaps between our jurisdictions,” Vestager said.

US antitrust enforcers and some US states are also investigating Google, Facebook and Apple. Big Tech is also under fire in South Korea, India and Australia.
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In a complaint filed in court, the Orlando Police Pension Fund said that under Delaware law Musk cannot complete the takeover until at least 2025 unless holders of two-thirds of shares not "owned" by him approved.

Elon Musk and Twitter Inc TWTR.N were sued on Friday by a Florida pension fund seeking to stop Musk from quickly completing his planned $44 billion takeover of the social media company.

In a complaint filed in Delaware Chancery Court, the Orlando Police Pension Fund said that under Delaware law Musk cannot complete the takeover until at least 2025 unless holders of two-thirds of shares not “owned” by him approved.

The lawsuit said Musk became an “interested stockholder” after taking a more than 9% Twitter stake, requiring the delay.

Musk also runs electric car company Tesla Inc TSLA.O and is the world’s richest person according to Forbes magazine.

Twitter and its board, including Chief Executive Parag Agrawal, are also defendants.

The lawsuit seeks to delay the merger’s closing until at least 2025, declare that Twitter directors breached their fiduciary duties, and recoup legal fees and costs.

Twitter declined to comment. A lawyer for Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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Stellantis (STLA.MI) has agreed to buy the Share Now car-sharing business from BMW (BMWG.DE) and Mercedes-Benz (MBGn.DE) as the two German groups focus more on the software part of their mobility alliance.

Formed last year through the merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot maker PSA, Stellantis wants to become a global leader in car-sharing, using this acquisition announced on Tuesday to expand its existing business in the area.

The deal reflects different approaches by carmakers who are trying to tap new sources of revenues beyond selling vehicles, most notably in the developing area of mobility services.

“We think this reinforces our belief that premium OEMs (manufacturers) like BMW and Mercedes will focus on private car ownership and less on fleet services,” Royal Bank of Canada analyst Tom Narayan said.

“Conversely, it makes sense that volume players like Stellantis are pursuing these alternative revenue streams.”

No financial details were provided for the transaction. Italian daily la Repubblica said it was worth around 100 million euros ($105 million).

By selling the division, BMW and Mercedes-Benz will focus on the two remaining parts of their mobility cooperation: Free Now, an app that enables the booking of cars, taxis, e-scooters and e-bikes, and the charging infrastructure booking app Charge Now.

Brigitte Courtehoux, who heads Stellantis’ mobility division Free2move, said the deal was part of the group’s plans to grow net revenues of that business to 700 million euros in 2025 and to 2.8 billion euros in 2030.

“We will really accelerate in terms of revenues,” she said.

Stellantis said the deal would allow Free2move to add 14 major European cities and 10,000 vehicles to its current 2,500-strong car-sharing fleet, gaining over 3.4 million customers.

She added the Free2Move fleet would not turn 100 per cent Stellantis but said “step by step we’ll have more and more Stellantis cars in it”.

Milan-listed shares in Stellantis were up 2.3 per cent by 0940 GMT, outperforming a 1 per cent rise at Italy’s blue chip index (.FTMIB).

BMW shares were up 1.8 per cent, Mercedes ones are down 0.4 per cent.

Share Now retreated from the North American market in 2019 in response to high maintenance costs and what the companies then described as the “volatile state of the global mobility landscape”.

BMW CEO Oliver Zipse in late 2020 fuelled speculation of a reorganisation of the mobility services alliance with Mercedes-Benz when he flagged the option of bringing in new partners or a possible partial sale.

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Elon Musk is in talks with large investment firms and high net-worth individuals about taking on more financing for his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) and tying up less of his wealth in the deal, people familiar with the matter said.

Musk is the world’s richest person, with Forbes estimating his net worth at about $245 billion. Yet most of his wealth is tied up in the shares of Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), the electric car maker he leads. Last week, Musk disclosed he sold $8.5 billion worth of Tesla stock following his agreement to buy Twitter.

The new financing, which could come in the form of preferred or common equity, could reduce the $21 billion cash contribution that Musk has committed to the deal as well as a margin loan he secured against his Tesla shares, the sources said.

The banks that agreed last month to provide $13 billion in loans based on Twitter’s business balked at offering more debt for Musk’s acquisition given the San Francisco-based company’s limited cash flow, Reuters reported last month.

Musk has also pledged some of his Tesla shares to banks to arrange a $12.5 billion margin loan to help fund the deal. He may seek to trim the size of the margin loan based on the new investor interest in the deal financing, one of the sources said.

Major investors such as private equity firms, hedge funds and high net-worth individuals are in talks with Musk about providing preferred equity financing for the acquisition, the sources said. Preferred equity would pay a fixed dividend from Twitter, in the same way that a bond or a loan pays regular interest but would appreciate in line with the equity value of the company.

Apollo Global Management Inc (APO.N) and Ares Management Corp (ARES.N) are among the private equity firms that have been in talks about providing the financing, the sources added.

Musk is still deciding whether he will have partners team up with him in writing the equity check needed for the deal, the sources said. Musk is not seeking to take on more debt for the Twitter deal currently, the sources added.

Musk has also been in talks with some of Twitter’s major shareholders about the possibility of them rolling their stake into the deal rather than cashing out, one of the sources said. Former Twitter Chief Executive and current board member Jack Dorsey is examining whether he will roll his take, one source added.

Large institutional investors, such as Fidelity, are also in talks about rolling over their stake, according to the source.

Musk has tweeted that he would try to keep as many investors in Twitter as possible as he takes the company private.

The sources requested anonymity because the matter is confidential. Musk, Dorsey, Fidelity, Apollo and Ares did not respond to requests for comment.

Tesla shares ended trading on Monday in New York up 3.7 per cent at $902.94. Wedbush Securities managing director Dan Ives said the news helped ease investors’ concerns that Musk was relying too much on his Tesla shares for the Twitter deal financing.

“This is big if it materializes as we believe the Twitter deal has been a $100+ per share overhang on Tesla’s stock due to the Musk financing concerns,” Ives tweeted.

Investors have been fretting over whether Musk will complete the Twitter deal given that he has backtracked in the past. In April, he decided at the last minute not to take up a seat on Twitter’s board. In 2018, Musk tweeted that there was “funding secured” for a $72 billion deal to take Tesla private but did not move ahead with an offer.

Twitter shares ended trading up 0.2 per cent at $49.14 in New York on Monday, closer to the $54.20 per share acquisition price, as investors interpreted the news on the new financing discussions as making it slightly more likely that the deal will close.

Musk would have to pay a $1 billion termination fee to Twitter if he walked away, and the social media company could also sue him to complete the deal.

Musk, who calls himself a free speech absolutist, has criticized Twitter’s moderation policies. He wants Twitter’s algorithm for prioritizing tweets to be public and objects to giving too much power on the service to corporations that advertise.

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Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google will provide any US business with over $100,000 worth of online courses in data analytics, design and other tech skills for their workers free of charge, the search company said on Monday.

The offer marks a big expansion of Google’s Career Certificates, a program the company launched in 2018 to help people globally boost their resumes by learning new tools at their own pace.

Over 70,000 people in the United States and 205,000 globally have earned at least one certificate, and 75 per cent receive a benefit such as a new job or higher pay within six months, according to Google.

The courses, designed by Google and sold through online education service Coursera Inc (COUR.N), each typically cost students about $39 a month and take three to six months to finish. Google will now cover costs for up to 500 workers at any US business, and it valued the grants at $100,000 because people usually take up to six months to finish.

Lisa Gevelber, founder of Grow with Google, the company unit overseeing certificates, said course completion rates are higher when people pay out of pocket but that the new offer was still worthwhile if it could help some businesses gain digital savvy.

Certificates also are available in IT support, project management, e-commerce and digital marketing. They cover popular software in each of the fields, including Google advertising services.
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India said on Saturday it had seized $725 million from the local bank accounts of China’s Xiaomi Corp (1810.HK) after a probe found the smartphone maker had made illegal remittances to foreign entities by passing them off as royalty payments.

The Enforcement Directorate had been investigating the Chinese company’s business practices over suspected violations of Indian foreign exchange laws.

The financial crime fighting agency said on Saturday it had seized the bank account assets from Xiaomi Technology India Private Limited after finding the firm had remitted the foreign currency equivalent of 55.5 billion rupees to three foreign-based entities, including one Xiaomi group entity, “in the guise of royalty” payments.

The remittance to two other unidentified and unrelated US-based entities was also for “the ultimate benefit of the Xiaomi group entities”, the agency added in a statement.

“Such huge amounts in the name of royalties were remitted on the instructions of their Chinese parent group entities,” the directorate said.

Xiaomi said in a statement issued later on Saturday that it complies with Indian laws and believed its “royalty payments and statements to the bank are all legit and truthful”.

“These royalty payments that Xiaomi India made were for the in-licensed technologies and IPs used in our Indian version products … we are committed to working closely with government authorities to clarify any misunderstandings,” it added.

The directorate’s actions against Xiaomi signal widening scrutiny of the Chinese smartphone maker, whose India office was raided in December in a separate investigation over alleged income tax evasion. Some other Chinese smartphone markers were also raided at the time.

Reuters reported on April 12 that Xiaomi’s former India head, Manu Kumar Jain, had been summoned for questioning as part of the directorate’s investigation.

Jain, who is now a global vice president at Xiaomi based in Dubai, appeared before investigators earlier this month, said a source with direct knowledge of the probe, asking not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The Enforcement Directorate also asked the company for details of foreign funding, shareholding and funding patterns, financial statements and information of key executives running the business.

Xiaomi was India’s leading smartphone seller in 2021, with a 24 per cent market share, according to Counterpoint Research. South Korea’s Samsung was the No. 2 brand with a 19 per cent share.

Many Chinese companies have struggled to do business in India due to political tensions following a border clash in 2020. India has cited security concerns in banning more than 300 Chinese apps since then, including popular ones like TikTok, and also tightened norms for Chinese companies investing in India.

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Mercedes-Benz (MBGn.DE) is looking at energy alternatives should Russia cut gas deliveries and is working closely with German authorities to ensure energy supplies, the premium carmaker’s top executive said on Friday.

“Every company is looking at options for diversifying energy sources,” Chief Executive Ola Kaellenius told Reuters TV ahead of the company’s annual general meeting.

“It is still too early to say exactly which scenario will happen, but of course, we are carefully looking at this.”

Russia’s Gazprom (GAZP.MM) cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria this week and has threatened to do the same to others, cranking up retaliation for Western sanctions imposed for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Germany has not been affected so far.

Mercedes Chief Financial Officer Harald Wilhelm said this week that the carmaker uses gas plants for heat to run paint shops.

A Reuters analysis shows that over half of the energy consumed by Germany’s carmakers was from fossil fuels, with the largest chunk from natural gas.
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As Germany speeds up investment in renewables, the energy consumption of its carmakers reveals just how reliant the country’s most important industry is on fossil fuels, a Reuters analysis of environmental data shows.

Their dependence lays bare the hurdles automakers face in transforming their own energy consumption while moving the transport sector, responsible for around 30 per cent of German energy consumption, towards electromobility.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and spiking gas prices have stepped up the urgency for German industry, which consumes another 30 per cent of the country’s energy, to move away from fossil fuels, with tools like carbon offsets and renewable energy certificates no longer enough to meet the new goal of energy independence.

Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) depended on non-renewable energy sources for around 80 per cent of its needs, while for BMW (BMWG.DE) the figure was over 60 per cent, according to 2021 Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) data, based on 2020 figures provided by the companies.

Over half of the carmakers’ energy consumption was from fossil fuels, with the largest chunk from natural gas, the CDP data – the world’s largest repository of environmental data – showed.

While carmakers increasingly have their own renewable power generators on-site, these covered a miniscule amount of their global energy appetite – around 1 per cent for Volkswagen and even less for Mercedes-Benz and BMW, according to the data.

Mercedes-Benz’ most energy-efficient factory in Sindelfingen sources 30 per cent of its energy through solar panels on the roof, the carmaker has said.

It said in early April that renewables covered 45-50 per cent of its energy needs at present, and that it aims for 15 per cent to be met through on-site renewable power generators by 2030.

BMW’s Leipzig plant, which makes the electric i3, generates 20 per cent of the energy it needs for production from four on-site wind mills, according to a statement.

The company declined to say what proportion of its total energy consumption across Germany is generated from renewable sources on- or off-site, but a spokesperson said it was “not enough to cover us if the gas switches off”.

Tesla’s (TSLA.O) new plant in Gruenheide has solar panels on the roof, but a spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the panels’ capacity or whether the plant has any other renewable energy sources.

“It’s important companies are open about the electricity they consume,” Silke Mooldijk, an energy researcher at environmental think-tank New Climate Institute, which monitors the energy mix and carbon footprint of major companies, said.

“They have an important role in reminding people that there’s still a lot of work to do.”

Data from Germany’s environment agency showed half the country’s industrial energy consumption in 2020 came from gas or coal, much of it supplied by Russia.

Bosch (ROBG.UL), the world’s largest auto supplier, told Reuters it meets only around 1 per cent of its energy needs worldwide through on-site production of renewable energy, with the largest chunk sourced from solar panels in India. It aims to raise this to 5 per cent by 2030, a spokesperson said.

BMW said in its responses to the CDP questionnaire that 39.5 per cent of its global energy consumption was from renewable sources, based mostly on electricity it purchased on the open market.

But more than half of the renewable energy purchased by BMW is bought in the form of so-called “unbundled energy certificates” sold by renewable suppliers. This allows BMW to signal demand for renewable energy to the market which should prompt investment in more capacity – but it does not mean renewable energy is actually flowing into the carmaker’s plants.

Furthermore, an oversupply of certificates from decades-old European hydropower plants means their sale does not necessarily spur new investment, energy researcher Christoph Riechmann of consultancy Frontier Economics said.

“The whole thing would be less problematic if trading in green energy certificates wasn’t like a revolving exchange… this problem can’t be avoided unless there is transparency for all customers on the origin of the electricity they buy, for them to make a conscious choice,” Riechmann said.

BMW said it was working to incentivise the construction of new plants via direct contracts with suppliers, and looking into how it could increase the proportion of energy sourced on-site.

In their bid to free themselves of fossil fuels, carmakers must find alternatives for heating production halls and paint shops, currently done primarily through gas.

Alongside seeking alternative forms of energy, Mercedes-Benz is trying to simply reduce its demand for heat by keeping production halls cooler, its finance chief Harald Wilhelm said on an earnings call earlier this week.

Just 12-13 per cent of the heating consumed by the three major carmakers is generated from renewable sources, the Carbon Disclosure Project data showed.

Some carmakers, including Porsche and Audi, use combined heat and power plants, which generate heat through burning biomass waste, but there is typically not enough biomass for this to be done at scale, Albert Waas, automotive expert and partner at Boston Consulting Group, said.

“Electricity is easier to green,” Mercedes’ production chief Joerg Burzer said at a recent conference. “Energy is harder.”

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Elon Musk told banks that agreed to help fund his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) that he could crack down on executive and board pay at the social media company in a push to slash costs, and would develop new ways to monetize tweets, three people familiar with the matter said.

Musk made the pitch to the lenders as he tried to secure debt for the buyout days after submitting his offer to Twitter on April 14, the sources said. His submission of bank commitments on April 21 were key to Twitter’s board accepting his “best and final” offer.

Musk had to convince the banks that Twitter produced enough cash flow to service the debt he sought. In the end, he clinched $13 billion in loans secured against Twitter and a $12.5 billion margin loan tied to his Tesla (TSLA.O) stock. He agreed to pay for the remainder of the consideration with his own cash.

Musk’s pitch to the banks constituted his vision rather than firm commitments, the sources said, and the exact cost cuts he will pursue once he owns Twitter remain unclear. The plan he outlined to banks was thin on detail, the sources added.

Musk has tweeted about eliminating the salaries of Twitter’s board directors, which he said could result in about $3 million in cost savings. Twitter’s stock-based compensation for the 12 months ending Dec. 31, 2021 was $630 million, a 33 per cent increase from 2020, corporate filings show.

In his pitch to the banks, Musk also pointed to Twitter’s gross margin, which is much lower than peers such as Meta Platform Inc’s (FB.O) Facebook and Pinterest (PINS.N), arguing this leaves plenty of space to run the company in a more cost-efficient way.

The sources requested anonymity because the matter is confidential. A Musk representative declined to comment.

Bloomberg News reported earlier on Thursday that Musk specifically mentioned job cuts as part of his pitch to the banks. One of the sources said that Musk will not make decisions on job cuts until he assumes ownership of the company later this year. He went ahead with the acquisition without having access to confidential details on the company’s financial performance and headcount.

Musk told the banks he also plans to develop features to grow business revenue, including new ways to make money out of tweets that contain important information or go viral, the sources said.

Ideas he brought up included charging a fee when a third-party website wants to quote or embed a tweet from verified individuals or organizations.

In a tweet earlier this month he subsequently deleted, Musk suggested a raft of changes to the social media giant’s Twitter Blue premium subscription service, including slashing its price, banning advertising and giving an option to pay in the cryptocurrency dogecoin. Twitter’s premium Blue service now costs $2.99 a month.

In another tweet he deleted, Musk said he wants to reduced Twitter’s dependence on advertising for much of its revenue.

Musk, whose net worth is pegged by Forbes at $246 billion, has indicated he will support the banks in marketing the syndicated debt to investors, and that he may unveil more details of his business plan for Twitter then, the sources said.

Musk has also lined up a new chief executive for Twitter, one of the sources added, declining to name the identity of that person.

The Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) chief executive also told the banks he will seek moderation policies on the social media platform that are as free as possible within the legal constraints of each jurisdiction Twitter operates, the sources said, a position that Musk has repeated publicly.

The $13 billion Twitter loan is equivalent to seven times Twitter’s 2022 projected earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. This was too risky for some banks who decided to participate only in the margin loan, the sources said.

Another reason some banks opted out is because they feared Musk’s unpredictability could result in an exodus of talent from Twitter, harming its business, according to the sources.

A Twitter spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

REUTERS