Elon Musk Provides Further Details on Taking Tesla Private

In a blog post Monday at the Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) website, CEO Elon Musk provided an update on his bombshell announcement a week ago that not only does he want to take Tesla private, but that funding was “secured.” Musk proposed a buyout price of $420 a share, a 20% premium to the stock’s then-current share price. At that price, the buyout cost would total around $72 billion, not including debt.

After explaining what he had done and what he planned to do, he got down to the big reveal — was funding indeed secured? After all, $72 billion (or some portion of that depending on how many shareholders choose to retain their stakes in the company instead of taking the buyout) is a significant pile of cash.

Musk wrote that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund had approached him “multiple times” since the beginning of 2017 to discuss taking Tesla private. He noted that the Saudis have now acquired about 5% of Tesla stock through open market purchases. Musk went on to describe a conversation at a meeting on July 31, 2018:

During the meeting, the Managing Director of the fund expressed regret that I had not moved forward previously on a going private transaction with them, and he strongly expressed his support for funding a going private transaction for Tesla at this time. I understood from him that no other decision makers were needed and that they were eager to proceed.

The best news of all, especially for those who want to take the money and run: “most” of the capital needed to take Tesla private would be funded by equity, not debt. And the $72 billion? Musk thinks that the actual cash required would be about a third of that amount because most current investors would roll their investment in Tesla into the privately held version of the company.

While it is likely that Musk’s announcement of the going-private possibility by way of a tweet was not a violation of U.S. securities law, it already has generated a number of calls for class-action lawsuits. What did cause some concern among federal regulators, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, was Musk’s claim to have “secured” financing. Will today’s blog post be enough to satisfy the SEC?

Musk’s Monday blog post further cooled the initial enthusiasm for taking Tesla private following his announcement last week. Shares jumped about 10% last Tuesday, but most of that has been given back. Shares traded down about 1% just before noon Monday, at $352.00 in a 52-week range of $244.59 to $389.61 and with 12-month consensus share price of $326.38.