Elon Musk said Twitter was recovering financially after seeing a 50 percent decline in ad revenue, making one of his first public disclosures about the state of the social media company since he acquired it last year.
Speaking at a conference hosted by Morgan Stanley in San Francisco on Tuesday, Mr. Musk, Twitter’s new owner, said he had taken drastic measures to improve the company’s financial health, slashing what he said was some $3 billion of operational expenses. After the cuts, the company has a chance of having positive cash flow in its second quarter, he said.
In the interview, which was conducted by Michael Grimes, a Morgan Stanley banker who helped broker Mr. Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, the billionaire said the company would have gone bankrupt “in four months” if not for his cost cutting. Since his acquisition closed in late October, Mr. Musk has fired or laid off more than 3,750 employees, let vendors and landlords go unpaid, and eliminated cloud computing costs and one of Twitter’s three main data centers.
“In the absence of action, Twitter would have had $6 billion in cost and $3 billion in revenue,” Mr. Musk said. He added that earlier projections had put costs at $4.5 billion and sales at $4.5 billion. Twitter recorded $5.1 billion in revenue in 2021 — up 37 percent from the previous 12 months — in the last full year it reported financial results.
Mr. Musk, however, seemed to take little responsibility for the change in the company’s financial outlook. He owes what he says is $1.5 billion a year to service debt he took on to complete the deal. The decline in its ad sales, which in previous years accounted for some 90 percent of the company’s revenue, happened amid an advertiser pullback as brands worried about increases in hate speech and misinformation.
Inside Elon Musk’s Twitter
- Job Cuts: Twitter is said to have laid off at least 200 more workers. The social media platform now has a work force of less than 2,000, down from 7,500 when Elon Musk took it over.
- Outages Are on the Rise: Mr. Musk’s repeated job cuts are stoking new fears that there aren’t enough people to triage Twitter’s outages, bugs and glitches, which are increasingly piling up.
- A Toll on Chinese Activists: As Twitter encounters interruptions and bugs, Chinese dissidents and activists said they feared they were being muzzled.
- Child Abuse Content: After acquiring Twitter, Mr. Musk vowed to rid the platform of child sexual abuse material. A review by The Times found that the imagery has persisted on the site.
He said the advertising decline was part “cyclic” and part “political” and blamed advertisers’ fears on portrayals of the company in the news media.
“Believe what you see on Twitter and not what you see in newspapers,” Mr. Musk said.
Mr. Musk’s appearance came after Twitter dealt with a series of outages and glitches that have become more common under his ownership. On Monday, a bug left many users unable to click links, load images or access certain parts of the site.
Mr. Musk also spent part of Monday and Tuesday fighting on Twitter with a former worker. After Haraldur Thorleifsson, an employee in Iceland whose design company was acquired by Twitter, tweeted at the billionaire to clarify if he had been laid off, Mr. Musk accused him using a disability as an “excuse” to not work and claimed he was seeking “a big pay out.” (Mr. Thorleifsson has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair.)
While Mr. Thorleifsson said on Twitter that he eventually did receive confirmation that he had been let go, he was still waiting for word as to whether he would be “paid what I’m owed per my contract.” Because his company was bought by Twitter, Mr. Thorleifsson had a higher compensation package than most employees and expected to be paid in full in the event that he was laid off.
“My company was acquired and as a result I had an obligation to work at Twitter for a certain period,” Mr. Thorleifsson said in an email sent to The New York Times. “I lived up to all aspects of my contract and now I need to wait and see if Twitter does the same.”
On Tuesday, before speaking at the Morgan Stanley conference, Mr. Musk continued his attacks, calling Mr. Thorleifsson “the worst.” He later deleted the tweet.
Then, in a series of follow up posts, Mr. Musk said he had a video call with Mr. Thorleifsson on Tuesday afternoon and apologized for his “misunderstanding.” The billionaire said he had offered Mr. Thorleifsson his job back.
“Better to talk to people than communicate via tweet,” Mr. Musk tweeted.