Tesla keeps sliding on doubts it has cash to go private

Esha Dey
Bloomberg News

Tesla Inc. slid further on Elon Musk’s acknowledgment of the hurdles standing in the way of his effort to take the company private and the emergence of another electric-car company that could be attracting interest from a key investor.

The stock tumbled as much as 5.7 percent at the open of trading Monday, as JPMorgan scrapped any modeling in its price target for the possibility that Musk will buy out some investors at $420 a share. Analyst Ryan Brinkman, who rates Tesla the equivalent of a sell, said such a deal is “potentially far from even being formally proposed.”

The bearish analysis followed a report Sunday that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund – the very investor that Musk has described as a linchpin of his plan to take Tesla private – was considering buying a stake in another U.S. electric-car company. The Saudis’ Public Investment Fund, which recently purchased almost 5 percent of Tesla, is in talks for a separate $1 billion investment in Lucid Motors Inc. that would give the fund control of that fledgling automaker, Reuters reported.

The news combined to extend the trauma of last week, when Tesla shares plummeted 14 percent, the steepest drop since February 2016. Musk, 47, gave an alarming interview to the New York Times in which he said no one reviewed his tweet about taking the company private before he posted it. His description of using a prescription drug to sleep and of the toll that leading Tesla has taken on his personal life also raised questions about the well-being of the larger-than-life chief executive officer.

Tesla shares pared early declines and were down 3 percent to $296.33 as of 9:45 a.m. in New York. Last week’s rout wiped out the stock’s year-to-date gain.

Brinkman, who had hiked his price target on Tesla to $308 after Musk’s initial take-private tweet on Aug. 7, dropped it back to the earlier level of $195. He cited the CEO’s Aug. 13 blog post in which he said the Saudi PIF had asked for more information about how the transaction could be pulled off.

“We now believe that such a process appears much less developed than we had earlier presumed,” Brinkman wrote in a note to clients. Taking Tesla private may be “more along the lines of high level intention” than a firm plan, the analyst said, so formally incorporating it into valuation analysis “seems premature at this time.”