Speculation that the Saudi Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is keen to finance Tesla Inc. (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk's proposed $72 billion deal to take the electric car maker private has been confirmed and rebutted by different anonymous sources claiming to be familiar with matter.
Shortly after two people with knowledge of the situation told Reuters that PIF has shown no interest in bankrolling Tesla’s buyout, separate sources told Bloomberg that the official sovereign wealth fund of the Saudi Arabian government is currently in talks with the automaker about making a deal happen.
PIF recently built a stake just shy of 5 percent in Tesla. This move, coupled with its previous multi-billion investments in technology, including $45 billion in SoftBank Group Corp’s Vision Fund, has triggered speculation that the sovereign wealth fund is a natural financing partner for Tesla. (See also: Tesla's Former Engineering Chief Rejoins Apple to Work on Car Program)
Bloomberg’s sources said the Saudi fund is now exploring making a take-private offer, having first expressed an interest around the same time that CEO Musk tweeted that Tesla might opt to delist its shares. According to the report, PIF’s eagerness to explore a deal forms part of its plans to reduce its exposure to the volatile oil market. However, the sources also added that the fund has yet to decide whether to increase its stake, or by how much.
SoftBank Not Interested
Reuters offered a different angle, arguing that PIF is not interested in adding to its Tesla stake because of its other investments. One source close to the situation said that the sovereign wealth fund would not make an offer without first seeking guidance from SoftBank, which happens to have already placed big bets on the future of the auto market with Tesla’s rival General Motors Co. (GM). (See also: Why GM’s Stock May Rise 32% on SoftBank Deal.)
Conflicting reports on PIF’s interest came shortly after CNBC claimed that Tesla’s board members are preparing to meet with financial advisers to explore the possibility of going private. CNBC’s sources said the Palo Alto, California-based company's board is likely to develop a special committee made up of a smaller number of independent directors to review buyout details and tell Musk, the company’s chair and CEO, to recuse himself from the process and hire his own separate set of advisors. (See also: Tesla Shares Rise on Report Board Will Explore Musk's Proposal.)
Musk, owner of about 20% of Tesla, is believed to be keen to obtain financing from a wide pool of investors in order to avoid the company falling into the hands of just a few large holders, reported Bloomberg.