Elon Musk says he’s considering taking Tesla private

Posted at 11:03 AM, Aug 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-07 13:03:52-04

Elon Musk said he’s thinking about taking Tesla private.

Musk, the CEO and largest shareholder of the electric car maker, said on Twitter on Tuesday that he has secured funding from a private buyer.

He implied that the funding values the company at $420 a share. The stock had been worth about $342 a share before Musk’s tweet, and shares quickly jumped as high as $371.

The stock had climbed slightly earlier in the day after the Financial Times reported that Saudi Arabia has quietly built a big stake in Tesla.

Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. About an hour and 20 minutes after the Musk tweet, trading in Tesla stock was suspended because the company was expected to release news.

Tesla has burned through cash while struggling to produce the Model 3, its lowest-priced electric car. The stock has fallen over the past year as the company’s losses have mounted.

Musk has also clashed repeatedly with critics, especially investors who have taken short positions on the stock, meaning they benefit when the price falls. He clashed with analysts on a contentious call after Tesla reported earnings three months ago.

In subsequent tweets on Tuesday, Musk said that he hoped all current investors would stay with Tesla even if it went private, and that he would be willing to create a fund to allow it.

He also said that he would hold on to his nearly 20% stake in the company if it were taken private, and that he wouldn’t expect himself or any other investor to have a controlling vote after the buyout.
At $420 per share, it would cost about $71 billion to take Tesla private. Before Musk’s tweet, Tesla had a market value of $58 billion, already higher than that of General Motors or Ford, even though those companies are significantly larger and more profitable.

In fact, Tesla has turned a narrow profit in only two quarters since it became a public company in 2010. Musk has vowed that the company will start turning a regular profit in the second half of this year.

In a 2013 report, the SEC said companies can use social media outlets to announce important information, so long as they comply with regulations and “investors have been alerted about which social media will be used to disseminate such information.”

The SEC issued that report after Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, used a Facebook post to congratulate Netflix’s chief content officer on record-breaking viewership. Netflix stock moved higher as a result.

Tesla said in a regulatory filing in 2013 that investors interested in keeping up with Tesla should follow Musk’s account.

The SEC declined comment on Musk’s tweet.

Musk has a history of outrageous behavior on Twitter.

On April 1, amid rising market concerns about a cash crunch at Tesla, he tweeted an email announcing that Tesla would have to file for bankruptcy. The tweet was apparently an April Fool’s joke.

Musk also faced intense public criticism after he suggested in a tweet that one of the rescuers of the Thai soccer team trapped in a cave was a pedophile.

He later deleted that tweet and apologized for that exchange, but at least one analyst suggested Musk needed to get off Twitter to restore investor confidence in the company.

After Musk, the next largest shareholders in Tesla are the mutual fund giants T. Rowe Price and Fidelity, with stakes of more than 9% and 8%, respectively, according to Thomas Reuters Eikon.

Scottish money manager Baillie Gifford, which recently urged Musk to focus less on tweeting and more on running the business, is the fourth-largest shareholder, with a nearly 8% stake. Chinese tech giant Tencent owns almost 5%.

— CNNMoney’s Paul R. La Monica contributed to this report.