Elon Musk has put the current value of Twitter at $20 billion, less than half the $44 billion he paid for the social media platform just five months ago, according to an internal email seen by American news media.
The email to employees dealt with a new stock compensation program in the San Francisco-based company and the attribution to employees of stock in X Holdings, Twitter's umbrella company since Musk purchased it in late October.
The compensation plan values the platform at $20 billion, slightly more than that of Snap ($18.2 billion), parent company of Snapchat, or of social network and creative website Pinterest ($18.7 billion), both of which, unlike Twitter, are publicly traded.
An emailed query from AFP sent to Twitter's communications department generated an automatic response in the form of a poop emoji.
In the internal email, Musk describes the brutal contraction in Twitter's value. He says the platform faced such grave financial difficulties that at one point it was on the verge of bankruptcy.
"Twitter was trending to lose ~$3B/year," Musk said in a message posted Saturday on the platform.
He cited a revenue drop of $1.5 billion a year and a debt-servicing burden of the same amount -- leaving it with "only 4 months of money."
Musk, Twitter's majority share holder, added simply: "Extremely dire situation."
But he then said that with advertisers -- many of whom fled the platform after the mercurial billionaire bought it -- now beginning to return, "It looks like we will break even" in the second quarter of the year.
Since taking control, Musk has sharply trimmed the group's payroll, from 7,500 to fewer than 2,000 employees.
He said in the email that he sees a "clear but difficult path" to a valuation of $250 billion, without saying how long that might take.
Musk, who is also the chief executive of Tesla Inc. and aerospace group SpaceX, said that Twitter would allow employees of the social network to cash in shares every six months.