Billionaire investor Elon Musk has always done things his own way, from designing space rockets to manufacturing electric cars. Now the Tesla CEO is looking to re-engineer how a company can be taken private.
Musk announced on Twitter on Tuesday that he was considering taking Tesla private for $420 per share, or $72 billion, in what would be the biggest deal of this kind. He said the funding for the deal was secured, but did not provide details.
Tesla shares ended up 11 percent at $379.57, indicating investors gave some credence to the plan.
But investment bankers and analysts reacted with skepticism, telling Reuters it would be hard for Musk, whose net worth is pegged by Forbes at $22 billion, to raise the equity and debt financing needed for the deal given Tesla is not turning a profit.
"The company is cash-flow negative. How do you use any debt on a company that is cash-flow negative?" said Steven Kaplan, a University of Chicago professor who researches private equity.
Finding equity partners and bank financing is key to take-private deals. When Michael Dell took his eponymous computer maker private for $24.9 billion in 2013, for example, he brought in buyout firm Silver Lake that contributed $1.4 billion in equity, raised more than $10 billion in bank debt, and received a $2 billion loan from Microsoft Corp.
When a Twitter user commented on Musk's proposed deal by posting "Just like Dell did. It saves a lot of headaches," Musk responded by tweeting "Yes."
Dell's take-private deal, however, may not be possible to replicate with Tesla, which has a $10.9 billion debt pile, is losing money, and whose bonds are rated junk by credit ratings agencies. Without the ability to add more debt, Musk may have to turn to sources of capital that are less accustomed to using debt to juice returns in the way private equity firms are.
Sovereign wealth funds
One option could be sovereign wealth funds, investment bankers said.
Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund has taken a stake of less than 5 percent in Tesla, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. PIF did not respond to a request for comment on whether it would bankroll Musk's take-private deal.