Business

Tesla shares rise after Elon Musk's $5B US stock sale

Tesla shares rose on Thursday after filings revealed chief executive officer Elon Musk had sold about $5 billion US of the stock over the past few days, following his much-hyped Twitter poll.

Sale equates to about 3% of Musk's total holdings

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is seen in Wilmington, Del., on July 13. After making a promise on Twitter, Musk sold about 900,000 shares of the electric car company's stock, netting over $1.1 billion US that will go toward paying tax obligations for stock options. Filings show Musk's trust also sold nearly 3.6 million shares in Tesla, worth around $4 billion US. (Matt Rourke/The Associated Press)

Tesla shares rose on Thursday after filings revealed chief executive officer Elon Musk had sold about $5 billion US of the stock over the past few days, following his much-hyped Twitter poll.

In late-morning trading, the electric-car maker's shares were up by 0.5 per cent to $1,072.75 US, recouping some of the heavy losses suffered earlier in the week

Musk's share sale was his first since 2016 and followed his weekend poll of Twitter users about offloading 10 per cent of his Tesla stake, which comprises most of his estimated $281 billion US fortune.

"The reason that we're seeing stock rebound is because there does seem to be method in his madness," AJ Bell analyst Danni Hewson said.

"It's about making sure that the market understands this isn't something done on a whim, or because his Twitter followers told him he should. He's had his decision already made, rubber stamped."

Filings showed Musk's trust sold nearly 3.6 million shares in Tesla, worth around $4 billion US, while he also sold another 934,000 shares for $1.1 billion US to cover tax obligations after exercising options to acquire nearly 2.2 million shares.

The sale equates to about three per cent of Musk's total holdings. The options-related part of the sale was put in place in September, much before his weekend Twitter poll.

"All I really see this doing is providing some short-term volatility and medium term keeping Tesla shares' valuation multiples sky high as long as Elon remains in the spotlight and investors continue to see him as an 'exceptional visionary,'" said Tariq Dennison, managing director at GFM Asset Management in Hong Kong, who is net short on Tesla stock.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

Retail mania

While Tesla has lost more in market value than the entire market capitalization of Ford Motor Co. this week, retail investors have been net buyers, making net purchases of $157 million US on Monday and Tuesday, according to Vanda Research.

Confirmation of Musk as a seller, however, and the prospect of more sales to come might weigh on the price in the near-term.

"It will definitely spook some retail traders," said Oriano Lizza, premium sales trader at brokerage CMC Markets in Singapore.

"Some people will be tightening stops or looking to close out. Though [Musk] will want to protect the stock to some extent and won't want people running for the door."

Four former and current Tesla board members, including Musk's brother Kimbal Musk, have filed to sell nearly $1 billion US worth of shares since Tesla's market value surpassed $1 trillion US late last month, according to filings and market data.

The company's share price has made staggering gains over recent years and has epitomized the ebullient mood in U.S. markets and the optimism of small-time traders who have helped drive it up 51 per cent this year and 1,300 per cent from 2020 lows.

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