Doubts grow over Elon Musk’s master plan to take Tesla private


"Last week, Elon opened a discussion with the board about taking the company private", six directors on Tesla's nine-member board said in a statement.

Tesla's board has confirmed that it will consider the proposal by chief executive Elon Musk to take it private. The board said only that Musk had "addressed the funding for this to occur".

The issue of share accumulation by outsiders emerged only recently as reports that Saudi Arabia's public investment fund had built up a stake from 3 to 5 percent after its offers of purchase of new shares in Tesla were spurned by the company.

Several securities attorneys told Reuters that Musk could face investor lawsuits if it was proven he did not have secure financing at the time of his tweet.

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On Tuesday, Musk revealed on Twitter that he was considering privatizing the company after taking it public in 2010. Shares were down 3 percent in premarket trading after closing up 11 percent at $379.57 on Tuesday.

"Who gives $30 to $50 billion to buy back the shares?", asked NordLB analyst Frank Schwope. "This is out there, even for Tesla", analysts with Barclays wrote Wednesday. The company declined to comment beyond pointing to an all-employee email sent Tuesday by Musk.

In that time, Tesla short-sellers - Musk's sworn enemies - may have lost more than $800m, according to estimates from financial-technology firm S3 Partners, while his 20% stake reportedly gained $851m.

Two of the potential stumbling blocks to Musk's plan include the stock price premium not being enough to get the existing shareholders on board to support the sale and coming up short on the announced funding to complete the transition.

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Several members of Tesla's board issued a joint statement on the company's investor-relations site.

Most analysts were skeptical, but some said a deal could materialize if Musk succeeded in lining up the right funding.

China's Tencent Holdings Ltd, which took a 5-percent stake in Tesla past year, could also be a possible partner. The transaction would amount to the largest leveraged buyout - in which a company borrows money to repurchase shares and exit the public market - of all time.

Former SEC chair Harvey Pitt told CNBC that while the USA stock market regulator permits executives of publicly listed companies to use social media to make statements about their businesses, Musk's tweet was still "highly unprecedented".

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