In this segment from the MarketFoolery podcast, host Chris Hill and senior analysts Jason Moser and Taylor Muckerman review the latest clarifications on just what Elon Musk meant when he tweeted that he had secured the funding to take Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) private.
According to Musk, he met with the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, and came away feeling certain that he could close the deal. The Securities and Exchange Commission could easily punish him for jumping the gun, though, and the company's board may have something to say as well. But will this buyout actually happen?
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Aug. 13, 2018.
Chris Hill: Let's move on to Tesla. Elon Musk has clarified the "funding secured" statement, or, I should say, added more context to the "funding secured" statement of last week.
Jason Moser: I feel like if he had just said, "Funding basically secured," we probably wouldn't be having this conversation.
Hill: I think you're absolutely right about that. That's kind of what came out in his blog post. I'll just read directly from it. "Recently, after the Saudi Fund bought almost 5% of Tesla's stock through the public markets, they reached out to ask for another meeting. That meeting took place on July 31st. I left that meeting with no question that a deal with the Saudi sovereign Fund could be closed." It goes on to say, "That's what I was thinking when I posted funding secured." That ... that's not the same thing.
Taylor Muckerman: No questions that it could be closed.
Hill: And, by the way! He may be 100% right, that it's just a matter of some paperwork and working out the terms -- I'm assuming that, in the eyes of the nice people at the SEC, that's not the same thing!
Muckerman: It reminds me of Anchorman, talking about the jaguar perfume that works 90% of the time, it works every time.
Hill: 60% of the time!
Muckerman: [laughs] I think I've even read headlines where Saudi Arabia came out and said, "No that's not going to be the case." So, even that's in doubt. Jumped the gun a little bit with that tweet, as he's wont to do.
Hill: Are we in the same position that we were at the end of last week? We had the board meeting coming into this weekend. It seems like nothing has necessarily changed for investors, in terms of where we were at the end of last week.
Muckerman: I think you have to be more worried as an investor, since funding isn't secured. Maybe the board decides to kick him out. And the stock sells off precipitously if that takes place.
Hill: You think the board would kick him out?
Muckerman: I don't know, it depends on if the SEC decides to get involved. That's a pretty damning thing to do, making that tweet without having anything to back it up.
Moser: Yeah, it could go any number of different ways. It depends on how closely the SEC wants to look at this, in regard to his behavior. I think, given his explanation today in regard to the Saudi Fund, it's reasonable to say that if, indeed, they are interested in the company going private, it sounds like funding is basically secured. It really goes back to that. If he had just said, "Funding is basically secured," that implies a much different message than his somewhat arrogant "funding secured."
Muckerman: "The check is in the mail."
Moser: Exactly. That's what we're getting on him about here. I stand by, I would much rather see Tesla a private company. I know there are probably a lot of Tesla investors out there who are cursing me under their breath right now when I say that. But I just think that the world needs a company like this and being in the scrutiny of the public market holds it back. We've seen plenty of examples out there that point to that.
For me, I hope, ultimately, it does go private. It sounds like funding is basically secured, so now, it's going to be a lot of headlines back and forth until something is ultimately resolved. I mean, it's fun to follow, right? You wake up every morning and you're like, "What did Musk tweet today?" " I don't know, let's find out!"
Muckerman: You must not be a shareholder. [laughs]
Moser: I am not a shareholder. Now, with that said, I am a shareholder of Twitter.
Muckerman: There you go!
Moser: I have to say, I love it when this stuff happens. It's irreplaceable. He's not out there saying it on Facebook, is he? Nope! He's not Snapchatting it, no sir! It's the most valuable news network in the world, in my opinion. Thank you, Elon, for exploiting the value in it on an ongoing basis!
Muckerman: He has some followers.
Hill: Do you think Musk ever picks up the phone and calls CEOs of formerly public companies that are now private? Do you think he recently called up Ron Shaich at Panera, "How is it being private?" "It's amazing! Elon, it's amazing, you should do it immediately!"
Moser: I feel like he's more of a leader than a follower. I don't know that he's soliciting a lot of advice. But I bet if he is, that circle is very, very tight.