Wednesday, 15 August, 2018

Tesla CEO Musk taunts short sellers amid legal scrutiny

Jean-Claude Juncker Li Keqiang and Donald Tusk Jean-Claude Juncker Li Keqiang and Donald Tusk
Priscilla Morrison | 13 August, 2018, 09:22

While Tesla CEO Elon Musk teased last week about taking the company private, several suitors may have already been courting the electric vehicle giant months ago.

Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) has shown no interest so far in financing Tesla Inc CEO Elon Musk's proposed $72 billion deal to take the US electric auto maker private, despite acquiring a minority stake in the company this year, two sources familiar with the matter said.

The Public Investment Fund, which has built up a stake just shy of 5 percent in Tesla in recent months, is exploring how it can be involved in the potential deal, said the people, who asked not to be identified talking about the matter.

Last week, Musk stunned investors when he Tweeted about wanting to take Tesla private at US$420 per share before issuing a formal statement on the company's website.

More news: Erdoğan urges Turks to sell dollars and euros to support lira

Musk has also said he would be looking to keep his ownership of Tesla at around 20 percent in a buyout deal, and that a special objective vehicle, like the one that exists at his aerospace company SpaceX, would allow Tesla shareholders to remain invested if they so choose. Although Musk has yet to prove that he has the funding to make Tesla private, Isaacs argues that Musk's tweets caused enough inflation and volatility that short sellers may already be out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Musk's disclosure of the potential deal, according to reports earlier this week. He is yet to back up his claim that he has financing for the transaction. At least two investors have sued Musk and Tesla alleging share-price manipulation.

Musk had discussed going private with SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son a year ago but the duo failed to come to an agreement regarding ownership of the company.

The fund has not yet made any concrete plans with Tesla on increasing its stake, sources told Bloomberg, but talks are ongoing, and continued investment in the company is seen as a strategic step toward diversifying the Saudi economy away from oil. SoftBank said it won't be a part of the current group of investors that will try and take Tesla private as it has already invested in General Motors, increased competition facing the company, and due to Tesla not being able to deliver on its mass market ambition, Bloomberg reported. This source said that the Saudi fund would not make an investment of this kind without seeking guidance first from Softbank.

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