CEO also goes on the record to defend his Twitter announcement
Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, has revealed Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund as a key source of funding which will be used if the company decides to go private.
On Tuesday August 7, US time, Musk told the world via his Twitter account, “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.”
Since then, the company’s share price has jumped up 12 per cent before coming back down, he has been sued by investors for making fraudulent statements, and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has made enquiries about Musk and the automaker’s disclosures.
Overnight in a blog post on the company’s website, Musk gave a few more details about where this money might be coming from, the timeline of events, and the steps forward from here.
According to Musk, he notified the Tesla board on August 2 “in my personal capacity” about his desire to take the company private at US$420 ($565) per share.
Musk claims he made a public announcement as the “only way I could have meaningful discussions with our largest shareholders was to be completely forthcoming with them about my desire to take the company private” and his belief that “it wouldn’t be right to share information about going private with just our largest investors”.
He also notes the announcement, blog post and “all other discussions I have had on this topic, I am speaking for myself as a potential bidder for Tesla”, not as the company’s CEO.
The outspoken CEO defended his “funding secured” comment by stating “the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund has approached me multiple times about taking Tesla private” since early 2017.
He believes the Saudi fund “obviously” has the financial wherewithal to do this, and noted it recently bought a roughly five per cent stake in the company through the open market. After making this purchase, the Saudis had another meeting with Musk on July 31 and its managing director “expressed regret” Tesla’s CEO hadn’t yet taken his company private, and expressed a continued desire to do so.
Leaving the meeting, Musk felt “no other decision makers were needed and that they were eager to proceed”. He claims during subsequent contact with the Saudi fund it is keen on proceeding, and this is what drove his “funding secured” claim last week.
Musk noted that although the suggested buyout price of US$420 per share values the automaker at US$70 billion ($94.2 billion), he doesn’t envisage requiring that much money as his “best estimate right now is that approximately two-thirds of shares owned by all current investors would roll over into a private Tesla”.
Quite how the company would manage to keep a large roll of private investors while not being listed on a stock exchange and remaining in the good graces of the SEC is unclear.
In his blog post, Musk says he is talking to other large investors in order to ensure Telsa continues to have a “broad investor base”.
The CEO says “if and when a final proposal is presented” it will contain “full details”, including all funding sources and private structure. This proposal will first go before an independent committee setup by the company’s board before being presented to, and voted on by, the company’s shareholders.
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