Tesla shares closed Monday down nearly 5 per cent after CEO Elon Musk said he would sell 10 per cent of his holdings in the electric carmaker - more than USD 20 billion worth by most calculations - based on the results of a poll he conducted on Twitter over the weekend.
According to analyst Daniel Ives of Wedbush Securities, Musk owns about 23 per cent of Tesla's stock and has about USD 10 billion in taxes coming due on stock options that vest next summer.
Much of Musk's wealth is held in shares of Tesla, which does not pay him a cash salary.
"I only have stock, thus the only way for me to pay taxes personally is to sell stock," Musk tweeted.
Many on Wall Street assumed Musk would be selling closer to 5 per cent of his stake, Ives said, but even doubling that number doesn't cause him or his firm great concern. Ives said it's better to "rip the Band-Aid off now" and avoid speculation.
"Tesla remains in pole position to drive this EV adoption curve to the next level both domestically and globally with Musk & Co. leading the way," Ives wrote in a note to clients.
Tesla has been on a roll. As of Friday, the shares had gained more than 40 per cent since last month when the company announced a record profit for the third quarter. Last week, Tesla shares hit an all-time closing high of USD 1,229.91 per share. It's the most valuable carmaker in the world with a market capitalisation of more than USD 1 trillion. The stock fell 4.8 per cent Monday to USD 1,162.94. It is still up nearly 65 per cent for the year.
The sometimes abrasive and unpredictable Musk, whose net worth is around USD 300 billion, said he proposed selling the stock as some Democrats have been pushing for billionaires to pay taxes when the price of the stocks they hold goes up, even if they don't sell any shares. However, the wording on unrealised gains, also called a "billionaires tax," was removed from President Joe Biden's budget, which is still being negotiated.
"Much is made lately of unrealised gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock," he tweeted Saturday afternoon. "Do you support this?"
Musk said he would abide by the results of the poll, which ended with 58 per cent of more than 3.5 million votes calling for him to sell the stock. He did not say when he would sell the stock.
Musk is known for roiling markets with his sometimes flippant and ill-advised tweets. Last Tuesday, Tesla shares tumbled more than 3 per cent after Musk tweeted that a deal to sell 100,000 Teslas to Hertz had not yet been signed. Hertz said the cars were already being delivered.
Ives called Musk's recent Twitter poll "another bizarre soap opera that can only happen to one company and one CEO in the world, Musk."
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