A deal to take Tesla private probably won't come from Wall Street or Silicon Valley

  • Tesla CEOElon Musk shocked observers on Tuesday when he announced his desire to take Tesla private, but nearly two days later, it’s unclear where the funding will come from.
  • Banks or investment firms would likely be put off by an inability to fund a deal through debt, according to James Rosener, a partner at the law firm Pepper Hamilton.
  • A nation’s sovereign wealth fund is more likely, according to Rosener, who listed Saudi Arabia as a possible candidate.

TeslaCEO Elon Musk shocked observers on Tuesday when he announced his desire to take the company private.

Musk said he had the funding for such a deal secured and merely needed the proposal to pass a shareholder vote before it could go through. (He indicated via Twitter that he had investor support.)

But nearly two days later, it’s unclear where that funding will come from. Tesla has yet to submit any regulatory filings that provide more detail into Musk’s proposal, and, according to The New York Times, some top executives at major Wall Street Banks, like JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, were not familiar with Musk’s intention to convert Tesla into a private company before he tweeted about it.

That raises the question: Where’s the money coming from?

Musk said he isn’t selling his 20% stake in the company and will allow current Tesla investors to keep their investments if a deal goes through, which means whoever provides funding for the deal won’t have to account for all of the over $US70 billion valuation that would result from Musk’s proposed $US420-per-share buyout price.

Still, dedicating tens of billions of dollars toward a single investment would be unusual for any single bank or investment firm, James Rosener, a partner at the law firm Pepper Hamilton who specialises in private equity and corporate financing, told Business Insider.

That leaves two options: a group of firms or a nation’s sovereign wealth fund.

Funding probably won’t come from Wall Street or Silicon Valley

Rosener said the latter is more likely, due in part to the fact that a deal would be difficult to finance through debt. Tesla, which has a history of burning cash quickly, wouldn’t inspire enough confidence in potential creditors that it could handle the interest payments a large amount of new debt would require.

A sovereign wealth fund could have the financial resources to buy equity with cash, Rosener said. He suggested Saudi Arabia, which was recently reported to have purchased a 3%-5% stake in Tesla, could be a possible candidate.

“Could it be [Saudia Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman] putting tens of billions of dollars in? It’s certainly manageable,” Rosener said.

Another obvious candidate, China, is much less likely due to the country’s reluctance toward inbound investment, according to Rosener.

Whether or not a deal goes through, Musk’s approach to potentially taking Tesla private has been unconventional, like much else he does.

“It’s certainly kind of a cavalier approach to a complex transaction. We’ll see if it works out,” Rosener said.

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