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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

Tesla board mulls over Elon Musk's bid to take the company private

The Saudi sovereign wealth fund is said to have built a five per cent stake in Tesla, according to a Financial Times report
Elon Musk, chief executive of SpaceX and Tesla tweeted Tuesday that he would take the manufacturer of the electric vehicle manufacturer private at $420 a share.  AFP

Tesla’s board is forging ahead with its review of Elon Musk’s bold and ambiguous gambit to take the electric-vehicle maker private.

Directors plan to meet financial advisers next week and are likely to tell chairman Elon Musk to recuse himself while they mull his proposal, CNBC reported Thursday, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. A special committee of independent directors will likely review the details, and the board has told Mr Musk -- who owns 20 per cent of the company -- that he needs his own separate advisers, the news outlet said.

The reported deliberations would be consistent with what six directors said in a statement a day earlier: that they would take “appropriate next steps” to evaluate their chief executive's idea. The report came after the close of regular trading Thursday. Tesla shares rose 2.3 per cent to $360.61 in trading Friday before US exchanges opened. The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr Musk thrust his fellow directors into an unprecedented situation by tweeting Tuesday that he was considering taking Tesla private at $420 a share. The three-sentence statement that six board members issued the next day failed to address major questions including how the deal would be funded and in what way it could be structured.

It’s unclear whether Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is said to have built less than a 5 per cent stake in Tesla, has agreed to commit money to the transaction, CNBC said. Musk spoke with the Public Investment Fund about going private previously, according to the news outlet.

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Mr Musk, 47, has had to recuse himself from a Tesla deal before. He and Antonio Gracias, Tesla’s lead independent director, bowed out of the process of the company acquiring SolarCity Corporation in 2016. Both were on the solar panel installer’s board, and Musk, whose cousins ran the company, also was SolarCity’s largest shareholder.

Tesla has typically picked either Goldman Sachs Group or Morgan Stanley to be lead underwriter when it sought to raise capital. The carmaker hired Evercore to advise on acquiring SolarCity, which hired Lazard as lead adviser plus several other large banks.

Mr Musk laid out how he envisioned taking Tesla private both in tweets and in an email to employees that drew comparisons to Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, where he’s also chairman and chief executive.

For years, SpaceX has run an internal stock market for employees and other shareholders who have had the opportunity to buy or sell roughly every six months. Setting up a similar structure for Tesla could help toward Mr Musk following through on his stated desire for smaller investors to be able to hold onto their stock. It also would reduce the amount of money -- which could run in the tens of billions -- that Mr Musk would need to raise for the buyout.