Tesla Shorts Made $1B Since Go-Private Tweet

Tesla Inc.’s (TSLA)  go-private plans, laid out in a series of tweets by Chief Executive Elon Musk earlier this month has been a boon to short sellers, or those betting the stock will go lower.

After losing close to $2 billion in mark-to-market losses when Tesla was able to burn through less cash than expected for its second quarter, shorts are recouping those paper losses. And it has to do with the lack of evidence to back up Musk’s claims that he secured the funding for a $420 a share go-private transaction. (See also: Saudi Fund in Talks to Invest Over $1B in Tesla Rival: Report.)

Long-Term Shorts Up $1.1B Since Go-Private Tweet

According to S3 Partners, the financial analytics company, as of Monday’s close of trading, shorts were down $611 million in mark-to-market losses but for longer-term shorts are up $1.1 billion since Musk’s tweet on Aug. 7. While Tesla’s stock got a lift initially at the idea of the green car company becoming a private firm at a lofty valuation, two class-action lawsuits and a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation later, investors and analysts are starting to question the deal. Take JPMorgan Chase & Co. for one example. Citing a lack of evidence that funding for a go-private transaction has been secured, JPM analyst Ryan Brinkman reduced his price target on Tesla to $195 from $308.

"Our interpretation of subsequent events leads us to believe that funding was not secured for a going private transaction, nor was there any formal proposal," the analyst wrote in a note to clients, according to StreetInsider.com. He added that while Tesla’s board is looking into a go-private deal, the process seems less developed than he had earlier assumed. (See also: Elon Musk Opens up About the "Excruciating" Year He's Had.)

Musk Mucks It Up With Shorts

Musk is known for fighting with short sellers, often using Twitter to attack the group of investors and even accusing them of wanting “the company to die.” In a tweet after Tesla’s second-quarter earnings report, the CEO posted a doctored scene from the 2004 German-language movie “Downfall" about Adolf Hitler's final days. In Musk’ version, Hitler is a worried fund manager who has landed on the wrong side of a Tesla bet. “If Tesla doesn’t go bankrupt soon, I’ll lose everything,” rants an angry Hitler says in the English-language subtitles, first spotted by MarketWatch. The film's bunker scene has been oft-parodied on the internet, with other jokesters adding subtitles on all manner of topics. In the climactic scene, an unhinged Hitler screams at his generals as Allied forces close in on his Berlin bunker.

In laying out his reasoning for taking the company private in a memo to employees following his tweets, Musk pointed to short sellers. “As a public company, we are subject to wild swings in our stock price that can be a major distraction for everyone working at Tesla, all of whom are shareholders," Musk wrote, according to Forbes. He also said that by taking the electric vehicle company private it would end "negative propaganda from shorts." Tesla remains the largest equity short in the U.S. and is only second to Alibaba Group (BABA) around the globe.

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