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Elon Musk fires back at Saudi prince with massive Twitter stake after takeover offer rejected

Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Elon Musk has fired back at a billionaire Saudi prince who is one of Twitter's largest shareholders after the royal rejected his offer to buy his share of Twitter.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, chairman of the Kingdom Holding Company, a Riyadh-based conglomerate, said Thursday that Musk's offer to buy Twitter for $43 billion was too small.

"I don't believe that the proposed offer by @elonmusk ($54.20) comes close to the intrinsic value of @Twitter given its growth prospects," he tweeted.

“Being one of the largest & long-term shareholders of Twitter, @Kingdom_KHC & I reject this offer.”

In response, Musk posed two simple questions to the Saudi prince.

"How much of Twitter does the Kingdom own, directly & indirectly?" he asked. And, "What are the Kingdom's views on journalistic freedom of speech?"

The second part of Musk's tweet appears to be a dunk on Saudi Arabia's atrocious record of human rights abuses and opposition to freedom of the press.

The Islamic kingdom does not permit an independent media and keeps journalists under close surveillance, according to Reporters without Borders, which ranks the country as one of the worst in the world for press freedom. U.S. intelligence has blamed the Saudi regime for the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which officials say was personally ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

As for the first question, Kingdom Holding purchased a $300 million stake in Twitter in 2011 before the social went public. At the time, Prince Alwaleed reportedly gained more than 3% ownership of Twitter. According to the company's website, "KHC and HRH Prince Alwaleed personally increased their ownership in October 2015 which jointly account for a major shareholding in Twitter."

KHC also holds large stakes in major corporations such as the Four Seasons hotel chain, Uber, Lyft, and Citigroup.

Twitter has been harshly criticized by conservatives who say the company inconsistently enforces its rules against hate speech and violence against some people, notably Donald Trump, while permitting accounts from brutal dictatorial regimes like Saudi Arabia to freely spread propaganda on its platform.

Musk's bid to take over the company comes days after he purchased a 9% stake in the company and declined to join Twitter's board of directors. Musk said in a statement that he's invested in Twitter because " I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy."

But in comments at the TED2022 conference in Vancouver Thursday, the billionaire Tesla CEO and world's richest man acknowledged he is "not sure" his takeover attempt will be successful. If he fails to complete the takeover, Musk said there is a Plan B but did not elaborate on what it is.

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