Investors may be wondering what Elon is smoking this afternoon following a tweet in which he claimed he’s considering taking Tesla private at $420 per share. What seemed like a joke at first may be serious and as the company’s stock price went crazy, trading has been halted.
Musk’s tweet came almost simultaneously with a new report from the Financial Times that revealed for the first time that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has been quietly buying up about five percent of the electric car company over the last few months to the tune of $2 billion. It’s unclear if Musk’s tweet, the new report, or the two items’ powers combined were responsible for the Tesla stock pop but shares in the company shot up as much as 7.3 percent.
Because 420 is the universal number indicating it’s time to smoke some weed, it was easy to laugh off Musk’s tweet as just one of his weird jokes. But after he called a hero diver who rescued children from a cave in Thailand a pedophile and seemingly meant it, it’s best not to assume the CEO is joking. And since his tweet, he’s elaborated on the idea and shared a blog post explaining that he’s quite serious.
In the post, Musk said that he feels a forward-looking company like Tesla is better off being private and avoiding the short-term thinking involved with public markets. “I fundamentally believe that we are at our best when everyone is focused on executing, when we can remain focused on our long-term mission, and when there are not perverse incentives for people to try to harm what we’re all trying to achieve,” he wrote. He also emphasized that he hopes all shareholders decide to stay in for the ride and the proposal will ultimately be put to a vote.
Around 2pm ET on Tuesday, trading of Tesla shares was halted for “pending news.” About an hour and a half later trading resumed and rose by more than 11 percent.
Some people on Twitter immediately began speculating that Musk may have wandered into a potential regulatory violation with his tweet. A spokesperson for the SEC declined to comment when reached by Gizmodo. But former SEC chair Harvey Pitt told CNBC that Musk’s out-of-the-blue tweet is “highly unprecedented… and raises significant questions about what his intent was.”
The SEC has brought charges in the past in at least one case in which a man was accused of manipulating stock prices with false tweets and taking advantage of the reduced prices. Officially, the SEC is fine with financial announcements on social media as long as investors are alerted to which platform they should be keeping an eye on and that no investors are given an advantage to receive the information first. In Musk’s case, it’s arguable that all investors know to be watching his tweets every second of the day.
Marketwatch currently lists Telsa’s market cap at a little over $58 billion. Factoring in $8.8 billion in debt, Musk’s ganja-friendly target price to go private would value the company at around $80 billion. Bloomberg reports that if Musk managed to scrape together the cash to go private, it would be the largest leveraged buyout in history.
It appears that Musk is hopeful that shareholders will simply hang in for the ride and willingly go private.