Even the world’s richest person needs financial advice. That’s great news for Morgan Stanley, the investment bank of choice for Elon Musk.
Morgan Stanley (MS) advised the Tesla (TSLA) CEO on his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter (TWTR). The bank also helped secure $25.5 billion in funding for the deal, including $12.5 billion in loans that use Musk’s Tesla stock as collateral. That should lead to lucrative fees and interest income for Morgan Stanley.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk stands to be the next owner of Twitter, having pledged roughly $44bn to buy the social media platform.
Musk, a self-described “free-speech absolutist”, has promised to develop new features including “authenticating all humans”, as he described it in a statement quoted in a press release announcing the acquisition on Monday.
Investment banks usually get about a 1% to 3% cut of the value of a merger deal, which is split among all the banks involved. Based on the $44 billion purchase price, that works out to a range of $440 million to $1.3 billion.
So Morgan Stanley could be looking at taking in tens — or even hundreds — of millions of dollars from advising Musk, plus the Wall Street bragging rights.
The billionaire has called for relaxing Twitter’s content restrictions and described a platform free from content moderation.
Critics have argued one of the main reasons for his decision to buy the company is to bypass its content moderation policies.
Angelo Carusone, head of the non-governmental organisation Media Matters for America, told Al Jazeera, “Musk is not buying Twitter for financial reasons, although he thinks he can make some money on it. He’s buying it for ideological reasons.”
Morgan Stanley is one of the world’s preeminent financial firms. According to so-called league tables tracked by the Financial Times, the bank raked in the second-largest amount of fees from investment banking in the first quarter. Its $852 million in fees so far this year trailed only Goldman Sachs, and was up 87% from the first quarter of 2021.
Morgan Stanley said in its first-quarter earnings report that advisory revenue for mergers nearly doubled from a year ago. But overall investment banking revenue was held back by a slowdown in initial public offerings and corporate bond sales during a rocky first three months for the broader market.
But it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that Musk is working with Morgan Stanley. After all, he has a more than decade’s long relationship with the company. And the bank was one of four underwriters for Tesla’s 2010 IPO, along with Goldman Sachs (GS), JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Deutsche Bank (DB).
Morgan Stanley’s auto analyst, Adam Jonas, is one of the biggest Tesla bulls on Wall Street. Jonas currently has a “buy” rating on Tesla stock and a $1,300 price target, 30% above the current stock price of roughly $1,000 a share.
The algorithm, or the piece of code that determines the priority in which tweets get served up to users, will become “open source” or available for the public to view and improve upon.
Musk said this will help prevent “behind the scenes manipulation” such as fuelling massive foreign propaganda, which Facebook has been accused of during former US President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Jonas has also recently written positive reports about the prospects for two of Musk’s multi-billion dollar privately held companies, SpaceX and The Boring Company. Jonas even suggested in 2017 that Tesla and SpaceX should merge, and more recently predicted that SpaceX could eventually help make Musk a trillionaire.
So even if Musk’s takeover of Twitter doesn’t turn the company into a social media juggernaut that can challenge the likes of Facebook and Instagram owner Meta Platforms (FB), Snapchat (SNAP) or TikTok, Morgan Stanley could still benefit.
Anything the investment bank does moving forward to stay in Musk’s good graces could be beneficial, especially if the world’s wealthiest person seeks advice on more mergers for Tesla, an IPO for SpaceX or The Boring Company or whatever other whim requiring him to raise more cash strikes his fancy.