Elon Musk Reveals New Plan for Taking Tesla Private
At 9:48 a.m. on Aug. 7, 2018, Elon Musk tweeted two sentences that landed him with an SEC probe, an internal board review and an incalculable amount of online speculation.
“Am considering taking Tesla private at $420,” he wrote. “Funding secured.” That price was a 20 percent premium over the share price at the time. Musk planned for current shareholders to have the choice to remain as such -- if they preferred a buyout, they’d receive the approximate value he tweeted about.
Today, the Tesla CEO is attempting to set the record straight on any speculation with a new company blog post. He sheds more light on his actions over the past week, including more on the “why,” writing that going private could help Tesla better focus on the long term. Entrepreneur reached out to Tesla for comment and will update this story if the company responds. Analysts at several top investment banks declined to comment, likely due to the sensitive nature of the company in recent months.
Here’s what you need to know about Musk’s latest announcement.
How likely is Tesla to go private?
In a letter to Tesla employees, Musk wrote: “If the process ends the way I expect it will, a private Tesla would ultimately be an enormous opportunity for all of us.” The key takeaway from this is that Musk does indeed expect Tesla to go private. But analysts at JPMorgan aren’t quite as sure, assigning a 50 percent probability to the potential move. Before Musk’s announcement, JPMorgan valued the company’s shares at $195 each. The day after his tweet, analysts updated that valuation to $308 per share.
Who is the backer behind Musk’s “funding secured” claim?
Musk says the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund first approached him in early 2017 about taking Tesla private, a chief reason being they were interested in investing in more than just oil. According to Musk’s blog post, he met with fund representatives “several times” over the course of the next year -- including July 31, 2018, after the Saudi fund bought close to 5 percent of Tesla stock. As for the “funding secured” part of Musk’s tweet? “Obviously, the Saudi sovereign fund has more than enough capital needed to execute on such a transaction,” he wrote. But Musk also clarified that he’s also in talks with other investors.
How much more debt could cash-strapped Tesla incur for the move?
Musk plans to leverage equity in the company rather than debt to fund Tesla’s potential move to private. “I do not think it would be wise to burden Tesla with significantly increased debt,” he wrote, disparaging reports that the move could cost the company more than $70 billion. He currently estimates that about two-thirds of all investor-owned shares would “roll over” into a private Tesla.
Musk says he’ll continue investor meetings to get a better idea of how many of Tesla’s current public shareholders would remain shareholders if the company goes private. The company’s board is currently setting up a special committee to evaluate any final proposal, followed by regulatory approvals and -- one of the last steps -- a vote by Tesla shareholders.