Musk sells $6.9 billion in Tesla stock, citing opportunity to force Twitter deal

Tesla CEO Elon Musk attends the opening ceremony of the Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory in Shanghai, China, January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Ali Song

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August 10 (Reuters) – Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) CEO Elon Musk has sold $6.9 billion worth of stock in the electric car maker, saying the money could be used to fund a potential Twitter deal if he loses a legal battle with the social media platform.

“In the event (which we hope unlikely) that Twitter forces this deal to close *and some equity partners haven’t concluded, it is important to avoid an emergency sale of Tesla stock,” he said in a tweet late Tuesday.

Musk in early July tore up his April 25 agreement to buy Twitter for $44 billion. Twitter sued Musk to force him to complete the deal, rejecting his claim that he was misled about the number of spam accounts on the social media platform as buyer’s remorse in the wake of tech stocks’ plunge. The two sides will be tried on Oct. 17.

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“Street will read through this poker move that the chances of Twitter deals are more likely now,” Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, wrote in a Twitter post.

In other comments on Twitter on Tuesday, Musk said “yes” when asked if he finished selling Tesla shares, and also said he would buy Tesla stock again if the Twitter deal didn’t close.

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Tesla did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Musk, the world’s richest person, sold $8.5 billion worth of Tesla stock in April, and said at the time that there were no plans for further sales. But since then, legal experts have suggested that if Musk is forced to complete the acquisition or settle the dispute with a severe penalty, he is likely to sell more Tesla shares.

Musk sold about 7.92 million shares between August 5 and August 9, according to multiple filings. He now owns 155.04 million shares in Tesla, or just under 15% of the automaker, according to Reuters calculations.

The latest sales brought Musk’s total Tesla sales to about $32 billion in less than one year.

Tesla shares are up nearly 15% since the automaker reported better-than-expected earnings on July 20, also helped by the Biden administration’s climate bill, which, if passed, would raise the tax credit ceiling for electric vehicles.

Musk also joked on Tuesday that he could start his own platform on social media. When asked by a Twitter user if he would consider creating his own platform if the deal didn’t close, he replied: “”

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Additional reporting by Hyungo Jin in San Francisco and Akrit Sharma in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Shubham Kalia and Shivam Patel. Editing by Edwina Gibbs

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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