There’s no denying that electric vehicle maker Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) has some pretty amazing technology and products. There’s also no denying that TSLA is a pretty poorly run company with terrible financials. Despite the lack of profits, high debts and other mishaps, shares of Tesla continue to have plenty of fans.
It also has plenty of enemies and a massive short percentage.
So, it makes perfect sense for Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk to want to take the company private and remove it from the public eye while it carries out its mission. But investors may not want to bank on a quick exit for TSLA stock.
Funding may not be so secured after all, and there’s a lot of moving parts to the potential deal that need to go through.
Tesla & Musk Are Under A Lot Of Stress
One of the biggest problems for Tesla comes down to overpromising and underdelivering. Since its founding, Elon Musk has talked a big game about many things, from the firm’s groundbreaking technology to sales and production figures. And for the most part, TSLA has managed to miss on all of those promises.
Production numbers have never been quite up to snuff or promises. Profits have been well, nonexistent. Even Tesla’s tech hasn’t lived up to expectations. Tesla has had several high-profile autonomous driving crashes in recent months and the firm had to issue a huge recall of its Model S sedans.
And on the back of all of this has been the TSLA’s continued financial issues.
In order to ramp up production, TSLA has taken on a lot of debt. Right now, there is more than $10 billion in I.O.U’s sitting on the car manufacturer’s balance sheet. This includes the debt taken on to bailout Musk-backed SolarCity. To make matters worse, Tesla’s cash flow situation continues to be precarious and negative. As a result, Tesla has done a ton of secondary offerings, but even then the company has not been able to satiate its funding needs. Moody’s recently downgraded its debt to junk status and the cost to insure TSLA’s debt via swaps has only increased further in recent weeks. There’s a good chance that Tesla will run out of cash before the end of the year if its burn rate stays the same.
Musk and company have to be feeling the pressure. Recent tweets, hatred of the media and bizarre behavior on analysts calls confirm this. On one hand, Tesla has plenty of potentials. On the other, it’s getting crushed by poor finances. So, when Musk tweeted his now famous “funding secured” message about taking the firm private it made a ton of sense.
A private Tesla would be able to operate behind the scenes and away from prying eyes — or at least stock analysts and market pundits.
Tesla May Not Get It Done
While taking Tesla private may be the best choice for Musk and the company, the road to “funding secured” isn’t smoothly paved. Not in the slightest.
For one thing is the price tag. In his tweet, Musk mentioned a price tag of $420 per share. This would give a TSLA buyout a $70 billion price. That would be the largest corporate buyout in history and is especially high given the fact that Tesla isn’t profitable or generating real cash flows. Trying to get “funding secured” for that seems like a tall order. And in fact, many private equity firms won’t mess with something that expensive or in that much debt to begin with.
This has led to speculation that Musk is courting other bigger owners like a sovereign wealth fund or mega-sized institutional investor. Both Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Japan’s Softbank have been estimated to be tapped for funding. But even here, analysts now speculate that both firms could only be a minor part of the $70 billion deal.
Aside from that cost, many TSLA shareholders have actually expressed anger — including bringing a lawsuit — over the deal. Remember, Musk isn’t the majority owner of Tesla and only controls about 22% of TSLA shares if he exercises all his options. It’ll take a shareholder vote to get the deal done and some investors believe that even the $420 price tag limits the upside. Some analysts have speculated that while Musk will want to keep control of TSLA if it goes private, he may not be able to given his smallish stake in the firm. That could result in a very different Tesla than many shareholders want.
Don’t Bank On The Tesla Buyout
The reality is, the plan to take Tesla private may not actually happen any time soon. It’s too expensive and there are a ton of moving parts that need to move together in order to close the deal. So, investors shouldn’t get their hopes up. And given the firm’s continued precarious financial position, TSLA stock continues to be a risky bet anyway. There’s plenty of potential, but focusing solely on hope — as many investors are doing with the buyout — isn’t a sound strategy in the least.
For me, Tesla continues to be firmly in the ignore and don’t buy camp. The buyout tweet is just another thing reaffirming that position.
As of this writing, Aaron Levitt did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.