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Twitter sale process said almost dead as suitors bow out

39130124.4 (40139735) - 09_10_2016 - FILES-US-BASKET-NBA-IT-LIFESTYE TWITTER.jpg
Twitter Inc's sales process is almost dead, as top bidders lose interest amid pressure from their investors, according to people familiar with the matter.

[NEW YORK] Twitter Inc's sales process is almost dead, as top bidders lose interest amid pressure from their investors, according to people familiar with the matter.

Twitter once saw interest from Alphabet Inc's Google, Salesforce.com Inc and Walt Disney, all of which consulted with banks on whether to acquire the social-media company. Now all of those suitors are unlikely to make a bid, the people said. On Friday, Twitter had planned to have a board meeting with outside advisers on a sale but canceled, one of the people said.

At Salesforce's investor conference this past week, several investors talked to Chief Financial Officer Mark Hawkins and other executives about how they weren't pleased with the idea of a Twitter buyout, according to another person familiar with the matter. They made their feelings known during small huddles near the stage and other areas around the meeting room. High-profile investors also e-mailed Mr Hawkins, who forwarded the messages to his CEO and the board.

Chi Hea Cho, spokesman for Salesforce, said the company doesn't comment on rumours. Representatives for Twitter, Google and Disney declined to comment. All of the suitors, especially Salesforce, have seen their share prices decline since reports of their plans first surfaced.

Twitter has considered other solutions, such as divestitures of assets not central to its business, people familiar with the matter have said.

The San Francisco-based company's stock declined 35 per cent in the past 12 months, and had dipped to US$18.25 in late August - below the US$26 price from its November 2013 initial public offering - before rallying after co-founder and board member Ev Williams said the board had a duty to consider options including a sale.

Twitter's search for buyers began after several quarters in which sales growth and user growth slowed. The company received interest from one potential buyer, which led the board to hire Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Allen & Co to pursue a sale in September. Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey opposed a sale, while Williams, favoured a deal.

Buying Twitter would come with a series of complications. Besides the growth issue, the company has grappled with hate speech and harassment on its platform known for 140-character messages. A buyer would have to address heavy employee stock grants, while dealing with a workforce that has already faced a lot of turnover in its leadership.

If a buyer doesn't appear, Twitter will continue to try to appeal to more users through a new strategy that emphasizes live video. The company has been entering partnerships for sports, politics and entertainment content - such as the National Football League's Thursday night games - that it can stream alongside tweets related to the video. It may give people without Twitter accounts a new way to use the service, while allowing the company to share revenue on the video ads.

BLOOMBERG