Elon Musk says Saudi fund on board to take Tesla private

His 'funding secured' explanation contradicts report there's no interest

Update: Elon Musk tweeted Monday night, after this post was originally published, that he's working with buyout firm Silver Lake and investment bank Goldman Sachs as financial advisors on taking Tesla private, and that he's enlisted two law firms for legal advice.

Elon Musk, increasingly under pressure from investors to explain his plan for taking Tesla private, penned a blog post on Monday in which he suggested his proposal has the support of Saudi Arabia's sovereign investment fund and that he's in active discussions with other investors. He also offered some new detail on how such a move might be financed.

Musk's assertion about the support of Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund contradicts a report from Reuters. It said the fund, which owns nearly 5 percent of Tesla shares, has so far been cool to the idea of financing the going-private bid. Reuters has also reported that Tesla's board of directors is still waiting for a detailed financing plan from Musk.

Musk took to Twitter last week, as he does, to propose a $72 billion deal to take Tesla private, arguing it would help the company focus more on long-term goals than hitting quarterly results and would shield it from short-sellers. The proposal values the electric car maker at $420 per share, a roughly 20 percent premium over the $350 per-share trading price at the time. He's faced increasing pressure since then to outline the financial details of how it would work, and on Friday, two lawsuits by short-sale investors accused him and Tesla of violating federal securities laws and artificially inflating the company's stock price.

Musk says Tesla's board of directors held an initial meeting, which he did not attend, to discuss the proposal, then a full board meeting in which he briefed directors about the funding discussions that had taken place so far and at which it was agreed that Musk would contact some of the company's largest shareholders.

In the blog post, Musk says the Saudi sovereign fund first approached him about taking Tesla private in early 2017 "because of the important need to diversify away from oil" and that its managing director met with him most recently on July 31 and reiterated his support for funding the effort. "I left the July 31st meeting with no question that a deal with the Saudi sovereign fund could be closed, and that it was just a matter of getting the process moving," Musk wrote in the post. "This is why I referred to 'funding secured' in the August 7th announcement."

The "funding secured" language is central to an SEC investigation into whether Musk's tweet constituted securities fraud.

He also said most of the capital needed to go private would be funded by equity rather than debt, "meaning that this would not be like a standard leveraged buyout structure commonly used when companies are taken private," adding that he didn't want to saddle the company with massive additional debt.

Musk says that means reports suggesting Tesla would need more than $70 billion to go private "dramatically overstate the actual capital raise needed. The $420 buyout price would only be used for Tesla shareholders who do not remain with our company if it is private. My best estimate right now is that approximately two-thirds of shares owned by all current investors would roll over into a private Tesla."

Tesla shares were down a fraction of a percentage point in late-morning trading, and they had lost about 6 percent of their value since shooting up Tuesday following Musk's Twitter bombshell.

Musk says a special committee of Tesla's board would first evaluate any final proposal before going before the full board for a vote. If approved, the proposal would then seek regulatory approvals before undergoing a vote of Tesla shareholders.

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