Musk Considers Taking Tesla Private

Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk tweeted around midday on Aug. 7 the following: "Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding Secured."

Dave Whiston 08.08.2018 | 8.41
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A buyout price of $420 per share would be for about $71.6 billion based on the July 27 outstanding share count of 170.6 million in the latest 10-Q filing, though it's unclear if Musk's roughly 22% ownership stake would be part of the deal or just converted into equity of a new private company. If a deal is announced and we think its execution is more likely than not, we will raise our fair value estimate to the deal price, but for now we are leaving our fair value estimate of $179 in place.

We find it odd that Musk would disclose that he is considering doing a deal and specifying a price rather than not saying anything until Tesla actually announces it is going private. It is possible that he wants to hurt short sellers of Tesla now. He has been very vocal against them recently, including posting a satire video on Twitter on Aug. 5. We think it is also possible that he wants to get a price higher than $420, else we would expect him to simply announce he is considering going private with funding secured and leave the $420 number out of the tweet. We speculate that the funding comes mostly from tech investors, such as possibly SoftBank or Tencent (the latter bought 5% of Tesla in 2017), sovereign wealth funds, and wealthy Silicon Valley investors.

We understand why Musk would want to go private. Rolling Stone in November quoted him saying, "I wish we could be private with Tesla. It actually makes us less efficient to be a public company." Tesla is still in its early stages of growth, and we think Musk would prefer to grow the company without having to check in with Wall Street every quarter. He probably instead wants investors who are there for the long run. An Aug. 7 Musk tweet said he would create a special-purpose fund allowing any Tesla investor to remain an owner or to sell at $420.

David Whiston, CFA, CPA, CFE does not own shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar's editorial policies.

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