European leaders host Musk, chase Tesla investment

By Joseph BOYLE

Billionaire Elon Musk swept into Paris on Friday for his second meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in recent weeks, as European capitals jostle for investment from his electric car firm Tesla.

The maverick tech titan, who also owns SpaceX and Twitter, met Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Thursday, and she later tweeted that they had a “fruitful meeting” discussing “innovation and opportunities”.

He arrived at the presidential palace in Paris in a Tesla for his meeting with Macron, who had earlier said he would “tout the attractiveness of France and Europe” as an investment destination.

Musk will head to France’s biggest technology trade fair VivaTech later, appearing before an audience of thousands for what is billed as an hour-long “conversation” with the event’s French founder Maurice Levy.

Musk and Macron held talks in May and afterwards he said he was considering big investments in France.

The country’s technology minister Jean-Noel Barrot fuelled speculation earlier this week by telling US broadcaster CNBC that “a lot of effort and energy” had been expended to secure a Tesla factory for France.

But reports from Spain say Tesla is planning to build a factory there.

The electric carmaker’s European footprint is relatively small, having opened its first manufacturing plant in Germany last year.

– Awkward interviewee –

Macron gave details of his intentions during a walk around the aisles of VivaTech on Wednesday.

“We’re going to talk about artificial intelligence, where he is involved, social networks and regulatory frameworks,” he said.

“I’m also going to talk to him about cars, batteries and the sector, to tout the attractiveness of France and Europe.”

Europe’s leaders and plutocrats are desperate to get some face time with Musk — in Paris he had lunch with French magnate Bernard Arnault, with whom he regularly trades the title of “world’s richest man”.

But despite the breadth of Musk’s business empire — his brain implant firm Neuralink recently got US approval to start human tests — it is his acquisition of social media network Twitter that continues to fascinate and baffle observers.

He bought the platform for $43 billion, sacked much of its staff, allowed right-wing conspiracy theorists to return and introduced all sorts of fees and charges.

He admits the platform is no longer worth anywhere near the amount he paid.

Levy, who will interview him in an auditorium that holds more than 4,000 people, said Twitter would certainly be on the agenda.

But Musk is a notoriously tricky interviewee, prone to lengthy pauses, off-topic rambles and making coded references to sex and drugs.

Levy said he would try to rise to the challenge but told French broadcaster BFMTV he could not pretend to be a journalist.

“I’m not looking for a scoop, I’m looking for an explanation, I’m looking to understand,” he said. — Agence France-Presse