Tesla CEO Elon Musk is making the case for his own departure from the company he created as the tech billionaire’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic, one auto analyst told reporters Monday.
Musk’s tweets about taking Tesla private are white noise, James Albertine, senior auto analyst at Consumer Edge Research, told CNBC Monday. It’s a distraction for a company that should be focused on production and the fundamentals rather than the behavior of its CEO, he said. (RELATED: Tesla Suspends Trading After Elon Musk’s Cryptic Tweet On The Company’s Future)
“All he’s really doing, on some level, is arguing against his relevance at the company,” Albertine added. “The company is still ramping production, they’re still ramping toward productivity, irrespective of what he’s tweeting.” He and others are critical of Musk’s gambit to make Tesla private, which the CEO believes reduces distractions short sellers pose to the automaker.
Musk’s suggestions came shortly after Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) bought 5 percent of the electric vehicle maker’s shares this year. The PIF’s position is worth between $1.7 billion and $2.9 billion at Tesla’s current share price. PIF instead acquired the position through secondary markets with the help of JPMorgan. The exact date of the purchase likely happened while the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was touring the U.S. in March.
Tesla traded at $355.90 Friday, a day after Musk’s Aug.10 tweet. The bump came after a CNBC report Thursday showed Musk had previously talked with Saudi Arabia’s wealth fund about a take-private deal. Albertine is not convinced the idea is smoke and mirrors, another stumble Tesla will have to overcome if it hopes to wiggle its way in a crowded auto market.
“There’s a lot of really smart people behind Elon, and if anything, he is making a case, unfortunately, for the board or for large shareholders to say, ‘Maybe he is not as critical to the day-to-day, and maybe he is more of a liability,'” Albertine said while insisting the whether Musk has the funding necessary to take Tesla private is irrelevant.
The market “obviously doesn’t believe” Tesla shares will reach $420 per share, he said, referring to the dollar amount Tesla would begin buying out public shareholders. So, it is important to instead to target “Model 3 deliveries, tracking the profitability in the third quarter, cash flow positive in the back half of this year.”
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