Reactions to Musk's poll on offloading 10% of Tesla stock

·4 min read
FILE PHOTO: Tesla's gigafactory in Gruenheide

(Reuters) - Tesla Inc chief Elon Musk said on Saturday he would sell about 10% of his stake in the company, based on votes on his Twitter poll asking users of the social media network whether he should sell his shares. About 58% voted "Yes".

"Much is made lately of unrealized gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock," Musk said in a tweet, adding he does not take cash salary or bonus "from anywhere", and only has stock.

Musk has previously said he would have to exercise a large number of stock options in the next three months that would create a big tax bill. Selling some of his stock could free up funds to pay the taxes.

Following are comments from analysts:

GRAHAM TANAKA, CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER, TANAKA CAPITAL MANAGEMENT, NEW YORK

“Selling that number of shares is a lot and he could have sold just one percent if he wanted to generate taxes, but I don’t think it’s up to the public or Twitter to tell Elon Musk what to do. Elon Musk is on a different track than Bill Gates and still has a lot of creativity and value creation for shareholders ahead of him.”

“We have owned the stock for seven years and we could hold it for another seven years, there’s that much room ahead of them” (in the power generation and battery storage businesses.)

“This will only be a minor fluctuation in the long term.”

GREG BASSUK, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, AXS INVESTMENTS, PORT CHESTER, NEW YORK

"We see today's activity as more of a very dynamic and very short term reaction to the Musk, Twitter developments. So while there'll be some downward pressure on the Tesla stock on anticipation of Musk selling shares and maybe some others trying to sell shares in advance of that.

"Interestingly, we think that could create a buying opportunity because nothing has changed with respect to the underlying fundamentals and the outlook on Tesla. We're advising investors that to the extent there is a decline through today, tomorrow that potentially could be a very interesting buying opportunity for those who already were bullish on the growth prospects of the company going forward."

DAVID MADDEN, MARKETS ANALYST AT EQUITI CAPITAL

"Whenever the dust settles, people always step back in, given the number of times in the grand scheme of things this company has had fairly large pullbacks."

"While selling stakes will have an immediate impact, the important bit here is the reason for selling stakes which is tax purposes and the market is not too rattled with this reason since there is absolutely no reason to believe that the company is not doing well."

NICHOLAS HYETT, ANALYST AT HARGREAVES LANSDOWN

"A large share sale always has the potential to disrupt a company's share price, a simple consequence of supply and demand. However, it shouldn't fundamentally alter Tesla's attractions or valuation, and if well handled the sale shouldn't disrupt the share price over the long term."

RUSS MOULD, DIRECTOR AT AJ BELL INVESTMENT

"Elon Musk doesn't like to do things in a conventional way and so holding a poll on Twitter about whether he should sell 10% of his stake in Tesla might seem crazy, but one could say it is normal behaviour for him."

"Investors may look at the situation and try and sell before he does, potentially then buying back at a lower price if they still liked the stock. It's also an open invitation for short sellers to place a bet that the shares will fall, generating a profit for them if the stock does decline in price."

NEIL WILSON, CHIEF MARKET ANALYST AT MARKETS.COM

"You could say he just wants to sell some stock now because the valuation has rocketed lately, cash out while the going is good. It's hard to criticise someone for doing that, is it? And rather than get berated by his fans for selling down his holdings, he can say 'look, you told me to do it!'. Either way, Musk was due to start selling soon anyway as he faces a monster tax bill on some of his stock options. And since he takes no salary or bonus from being Tesla CEO (he likes to remind us), the only way to cover would be to sell some shares. Seems fair enough, but does it need all the fintwit showbusiness?"

DANIEL IVES, ANALYST AT WEDBUSH SECURITIES

"Today Musk owns roughly 23% of Tesla and it was viewed by many on the Street that he would sell up to ~5%/6% of his ownership stake, with 10% being a higher amount that could surprise some investors but ultimately its a digestible number we are not overly concerned about. We would rather Musk rip the band-aid off now and sell this portion of stock rather than it lingering over the next year and feeding into any non-fundamental bear thesis on the story."

CHAMATH PALIHAPITIYA, VENTURE INVESTOR

"We are witnessing the Twitter masses deciding the outcome of a $25B (billion) coin flip."

(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar, Eva Mathews, Anisha Sircar, Pushkala Aripaka and Aniruddha Ghosh in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)

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