Tesla Go-Private Talk Cost Shorts Another $1.5B

Tesla Inc. (TSLA) short sellers, or those betting the stock will fall, can’t seem to catch a break. In addition to last week’s $2 billion in mark-to-market losses, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk’s tweets about the prospect of taking the company private are adding to their woes.

In a move that surprised investors and Wall Street and sent the stock surging Tuesday (August 7), Musk said in a series of tweets and an email to employees that he is thinking about taking the company private in a $420-a.share deal. That, along with a Financial Times report that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund acquired a $2 billion stake in Tesla, sent the stock surging before being halted around 2:00 p.m. EDT. It traded again around 3:45 p.m. and closed up 11% or $37.58 to $ 379.57. (See more: What If Tesla Goes Private?)

Shorts Lose Again

While investors rejoiced, short sellers were staring at big losses yet again. Shorts “have taken another body blow to the ribs today,” wrote Ihor Dusaniwsky, head of predictive analytics at financial analytics company S3 Partners in a research report late Tuesday. According to Dusaniwsky, at $384.50 a share, shorts were down $1.49 billion in mark-to-market losses Tuesday (August 7). That brings the total losses so far in August to $3 billion. Year-to-date shorts are down $3.2 billion. Since 2016, their bets on the stock falling have resulted in $6.6 billion in losses, noted the researcher.

Tesla Still Favorite Of Shorts Although It Could Change

Despite the paper losses, Tesla remains the largest equity short in the U.S. and is only second to Alibaba Group (BABA) around the globe. What’s more, Dusaniwsky noted that even with Tesla’s shares up 18% so far this year, shares shorted have increased by 15% or 4.6 million shares with total short interest increasing by 22% or $2.3 billion in 2018.  “Surprisingly, with Tesla’s stock price up 29% since their August earnings report, shares shorted has not decreased appreciably, down only 316k shares or less than 1%,” he wrote. “Even after incurring over $1.5 billion in mark-to-market losses in August, short sellers have kept their positions and conviction.” (See more: Shorts Are Sticking With Tesla Despite $1.7B Loss.)

Still, Dusaniwsky warned if Musk is successful in taking Tesla private, it could result in a short squeeze in shares of the electric car maker. He said that if the market thinks Musk has the financing in the place and if the likelihood of it going private is high, short covering could ensue which would send Tesla’s stock higher in the near term. “The Teflon Short can only take so much punishment before it gives in,” said Dusaniwsky. “If Tesla hits $420/share and shares shorted remains constant, August mark-to-market losses would be -$4.3 billion, 2018 year-to-date losses would be -$4.45 billion and losses since 2016 would be -$7.8 billion. It would be difficult to hold onto your short positions in the face of such losses.”

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