Elon Musk unloaded $6.9 billion in Tesla Inc shares, the biggest sale by a billionaire in history, saying he wanted to avoid a last-minute sell-off in the electric car maker should he be forced to pursue his aborted deal to buy Twitter Inc.
Tesla’s chief executive sold about 7.92 million shares on Aug. 5, according to a series of regulatory filings after U.S. markets closed on Tuesday. As speculation mounted about the reasons for the liquidation, Musk responded in a series of overnight tweets, saying he wanted to prevent an extraordinary stock selloff if he is forced to complete the $44 billion takeover of Twitter that he walked away from last month.
Asked by followers if he was done selling Tesla stock and would buy the stock again if the deal didn’t go through, Musk said, “Yes.”
In the (hopefully unlikely) event that Twitter forces this deal to close *and* some equity partners don’t come along, it’s important to avoid an emergency sale of Tesla stock.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 10, 2022
The sale comes just four months after Musk, the world’s richest man, said he had no further plans to sell shares in the carmaker he built into a global force after shedding $8.5 billion in shares after of its initial offer to buy Twitter. Since then, Tesla shares have recovered from lows hit in May, thanks to a broader rally in U.S. stocks.
“He’s certainly clarifying what he’s making on Twitter,” said Charu Chanana, strategist at Saxo Capital Markets Pte in Singapore. “The timing of the sale – right before the release of US CPI – does say something. The bear market rally has begun to fade, and further revisions to the Fed’s expectations could mean more pain for stocks, especially in the technology sector.”
Tesla shares are up about 35% from this year’s lows, though they’re still down about 20% this year.
Tesla’s market fortunes have been linked to the deal on Twitter since Musk made his surprise overture earlier this year.
The billionaire said last month he was ending a deal to buy the social network, where he has more than 102 million followers, and take it private, claiming Twitter had made “misrepresentations” about the number of spambots on the service. Twitter has since sued to force Musk to complete the deal, and a trial in Delaware’s chancellor court is set for October.
In May, Musk abandoned plans to partially finance the purchase with a margin loan tied to his Tesla stake and increased the amount of equity to $33.5 billion.
It previously announced that it had secured $7.1 billion in equity commitments from investors including billionaire Larry Ellison, Sequoia Capital and Binance. In tweets late Tuesday, Musk said the share sale also involved contingencies if those private investors don’t come through.
Over the weekend, Musk tweeted that if Twitter provided its method of sampling accounts to determine the number of bots and how they are verified as real, “the deal should go ahead on the original terms.”
Good summary of the problem.
If Twitter simply provides its method of sampling 100 accounts and how they are verified as real, the deal should be on original terms.
However, if their SEC filings are found to be materially false, it shouldn’t be.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 6, 2022
The Twitter agreement included a provision that, in the event of its termination, the party in breach of the agreement would pay $1 billion under certain circumstances. Legal experts debate whether the conflict over spambots is enough to allow Musk to walk away from the deal.
Musk, 51, has sold about $32 billion worth of Tesla stock in the past 10 months. The fallout began in November after he polled Twitter users about whether he should cut his stake in the platform, setting off a rollercoaster ride that has stunned even the most seasoned Musk watchers. It now owns 14.84% of Tesla, still the largest shareholder.
Commenting before Musk’s tweets clarifying the reason for the sale, Gene Munster, managing partner at Loup Ventures, said there was a 75% chance the mogul would buy Twitter.
“I’m shocked,” Munster said. “This will be a headwind for Tesla in the near term. In the long run, only deliveries and gross profit are important.”
Musk’s wealth of $250.2 billion is the world’s largest, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, but his fortune has fallen by about $20 billion this year due to a drop in Tesla stock.
The automaker’s shareholders approved a three-for-one stock split last week, attracting even more retail investors given the stock’s recent recovery. Tesla’s better-than-expected second-quarter profit was a tailwind along with landmark US climate change legislation aimed at expanding the use of clean energy through a series of tax breaks.
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