Wall Street sees funding hurdle to Musk's plan to take Tesla private

CEO and lead designer at SpaceX and co-founder of Tesla speaks at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference in Washington

Wall Street sees funding hurdle to Musk's plan to take Tesla private

Tesla directors have said they knew about Elon Musk's surprise proposal to privatise the money-losing vehicle maker before he tweeted about it and have met several times in the past week to discuss the proposal.

Musk shocked the market, yet again with a tweet on Tuesday that he was considering taking the loss-making company private at $420 a share.

Any final decision about privatizing the company would fall to existing shareholders.

Musk owns an nearly 20 per cent stake in Tesla, meaning he'd still need roughly $70 billion in financing to take Tesla private.

The six board members who issued the statement on Wednesday included James Murdoch, chief executive of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. and Brad Buss, who was the chief financial officer of solar panel maker SolarCity until it was bought by Tesla in 2016.

Musk is Tesla's biggest shareholder, holding 20 per cent of its stock.

"Basically, I'm trying to accomplish an outcome where Tesla can operate at its best, free from as much distraction and short-term thinking as possible, and where there is as little change for all of our investors, including all of our employees, as possible". Shares were down 3 percent in premarket trading after closing up 11 percent at $379.57 on Tuesday.

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Cowen analyst Jeffrey Osborne told clients in a note Wednesday that he didn't believe Tesla's current business "support a valuation anywhere close to $420 per share". But going private could also complicate Tesla's effort to build a mainstream electric vehicle by removing the easy access to capital the Wall Street darling has enjoyed. The board said only that Musk had "addressed the funding for this to occur". And as the stock price has climbed this year, so too have the bets against it.

Musk has some sensible reasons for going private.

Tesla may find it hard to line up banks and investors to lend it large sums. "The board has met several times over the last week and is taking the appropriate next steps to evaluate this".

"The structure envisioned for Tesla is similar in many ways to the SpaceX structure: external shareholders and employee shareholders have an opportunity to sell or buy approximately every six months", Musk said in an email to employees Tuesday that was published on Tesla's corporate blog. The move is estimated to require north of $50 billion to buy out the public shareholders.

But the board offered no further details of the proposal or its funding, sparking new questions about the feasibility of the master gambit Musk revealed in a surprise series of midday tweets on Tuesday. The company already has a $2 billion investment from Saudi Arabia's sovereign fund as well as Tencent, which took a 5 percent stake in 2017.

Days after Tesla opened up the Model 3 configurator to all potential buyers, not just reservation holders who got a place in line over a year ago, uncomfortable math lingers over the automaker's.

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