At a technology conference in Miami, Mr. Musk, the world’s richest man, said striking a deal for Twitter at a lower price was “not out of the question,” according to a person who attended the event.
Mr. Musk’s comment came in response to a question over whether he would renegotiate his planned $44 billion acquisition of Twitter over its stated figures of how many bots, or spam accounts, exist on the social media service, the attendee said. Mr. Musk said that Twitter’s figure — less than 5 percent of all accounts — was difficult to believe.
Twitter’s shares fell 8 percent on Monday to close at $37.39. That was far below the $54.20 a share that Mr. Musk agreed to pay last month to buy the social media company.
Mr. Musk, who also leads the rocket company SpaceX and the electric automaker Tesla, has unleashed confusion over the state of the deal. Last Friday, he tweeted that his purchase of Twitter was “temporarily on hold” until he could get more details about the volume of spam and fake accounts on the platform. He later followed up saying he was still “committed” to the deal.
Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s chief executive, also posted a lengthy tweet thread on Monday detailing how the company calculates its number of bots. He said the company had shared an “overview of the estimation process with Elon a week ago.” Mr. Musk responded to the thread with a poop emoji.
Mr. Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Twitter declined to comment.
Analysts have speculated that Mr. Musk has been trying to back out of the deal or renegotiate a lower price. Tech company stocks have taken a beating since Mr. Musk first announced his acquisition of Twitter earlier this month. Shares of Tesla, which are Mr. Musk’s main source of wealth, have fallen almost 30 percent.
Renegotiating a deal would not be easy. In addition to a $1 billion breakup fee, Mr. Musk’s deal with Twitter includes a “specific performance clause,” which gives the company the right to sue him and force him to complete the deal so long as the debt financing he has corralled remains intact.
But Mr. Musk has also created very public headaches for Twitter. Over the weekend, he tweeted that Twitter’s legal department had “called to complain” that he violated a nondisclosure agreement discussing its bot sample size of 100. Mr. Musk’s deal with Twitter also has a nondisparagement clause that prohibits him from tweeting negatively about the transaction.
The two sides have so far continued as if there is a deal. Teams for both sides held a previously scheduled meeting on Friday. (Twitter confirmed the meeting was “part of the transaction planning process.”) On Friday, Bret Taylor, Twitter’s chairman, tweeted: “We remain committed to our agreement.”