In a blog post Friday evening, electric-car maker Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) put to rest any debate about whether the company may go public. CEO Elon Musk said feedback from experts and discussions with investors led him to "believe the better path is for Tesla to remain public." The decision came just a couple of weeks after Musk dropped the surprising and controversial news on Twitter that he was considering taking the company private at $420 per share, asserting the funding for such a deal was "secured."
As investors assess the implications of Tesla remaining public, here are some things to consider.
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Why Tesla is staying public
To help Musk fully consider the idea of a private Tesla, he not only consulted with merger and acquisition experts at Silver Lake, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley, but he "also spent considerable time listening to current shareholders, large and small, to understand what they think would be in the best long-term interests of Tesla," according to Musk's Aug. 24 blog post.
These discussions ultimately led Musk to conclude:
- Most shareholders preferred Tesla to stay public.
- Musk's hope for current investors to have the option to remain investors in a private Tesla proved to be unrealistic.
- Going private would be "more time-consuming and distracting than initially anticipated."
Also significant: When Musk met with Tesla's board of directors to explain he had changed his mind, they said they agreed with his conclusion.
Tesla's board continues to support Elon Musk
Importantly, even after what has proven to be an unnecessary distraction as the automaker attempts to ramp up Model 3 production and deliveries and achieve profitability, Tesla's board of directors appears to be totally supportive of Musk.
In a statement released on Friday, Tesla's board said, "[W]e fully support Elon as he continues to lead the company moving forward."
Tesla has a heightened risk profile
With Tesla choosing to remain public, this provides fuel for scrutiny of Musk's assertion on Twitter earlier this month that the funding to go private had been "secured." The tweet has been viewed by some as fraudulent and manipulative. A subsequent SEC investigation and numerous lawsuits are also concerning.
Loup Ventures analyst Gene Munster expects this fateful tweet will eventually prompt a class action lawsuit against Musk. But as Munster notes, the company will likely "be insulated from any claims given the company has made it clear that 'go private' is an Elon Musk initiative." But Musk's historical importance to Tesla means anything that negatively impacts the CEO could eventually have a material impact on the automaker.
Ultimately, the biggest change for investors after all of this activity surrounding Musk's consideration of Tesla's privatization is a slight increase in the stock's risk profile.
Going forward, investors will want to keep an eye on the outcomes of the SEC's investigation and lawsuits. But the biggest concern remains whether or not Tesla can ramp up Model 3 production and achieve profitability.
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