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Tesla raises $1.2 billion in new capital: good news or bad?

Tesla Model S

As expected, Tesla recently raised about $1.2 billion in fresh capital by selling stock and issuing new debt. The company sold stock at $262 per share, bringing in about $350 million, and issued convertible notes worth another $850 million, according to a document filed with the SEC.

CEO Elon Musk personally bought $25 million in TSLA shares, presumably to reassure fickle financiers on Wall Street about his faith in the company (Tesla true believers need no such assurances – we’re convinced Elon would sell his shoes before letting the dream of electrifying the world die).

The company will need all that cash – and maybe more – to quickly ramp up production of the upcoming Model 3. Not only must Tesla retool and upgrade its production line for the new model – an expensive proposition for any automaker – but it plans to expand production at an unprecedented rate. Tesla recently told investors that it expects to be producing 5,000 units of Model 3 vehicles per week “at some point in the fourth quarter” of this year, and 10,000 per week “at some point in 2018.”

As is usually the case with Tesla news, stock market analysts are sharply divided about the significance of the latest capital raise. Any time a company issues new stock, it dilutes the float – that is, it makes each existing share of stock worth less, which is negative news for investors. However, some pundits are happy about the small size of the offering, taking it as a sign that Tesla is confident of its ability to quickly ramp up Model 3 production.

Baird’s Ben Kallo is one of the bulls: “We view the offering positively as it should help de-risk the Model 3 launch, provide additional capital for Model 3 production equipment and/or investment in the Gigafactory, and remove an overhang on the stock.”

Bears, including the New York Times, are saying the deal is too small, and that Tesla may have to tap capital markets again soon. “This is at the low end of the $1-2bn we expected, and could imply another raise later if the Model 3 is delayed,” wrote UBS analyst Colin Langan.

Many of the Wall Street press posse (not so many among the EV media) are convinced that the Model 3 launch will be delayed, and that this will be a disaster for the company. But keep in mind that traditional stock-watchers have never known what to make of Tesla. Many have trouble understanding Tesla’s products, and most are completely baffled by its massive market valuation.


Sources: Barron’s, New York Times, USA Today, InvestorPlace


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