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Tesla offers $2 billion in added shares

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DETROIT — Shares of Tesla rose a bout 1.5% i n trading Thursday morning after the electric vehicle and solar panel maker said it would sell over $2 billion worth of additional shares.

The sale takes advantage of the company's meteoric stock rise in the past eight months. It comes just two weeks after CEO Elon Musk said the company had enough cash to fund its capital programs and it didn't need to raise any more money.

Tesla says that underwriters of the share sale have a 30-day option to buy another $300 million in common stock.

In its statement, Tesla says Musk will buy $10 million worth of the stock while billionaire board member and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison will buy shares worth $1 million.

The Palo Alto, California, company will use the proceeds to strengthen its balance sheet and for general corporate purposes.

Tesla currently has just over 180 million shares outstanding, and it says in filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that the sale will add 2.65 million.

In a filing Thursday, Tesla Inc. estimated that the net proceeds from the sale would be $2.31 billion if the underwriters exercise options to buy shares.

The numbers assume that the shares would be sold for $767.29 each, the closing price of the stock on Wednesday. Each additional dollar on the share price would add about $2.6 million to the proceeds, the filing said.

Since June of last year the stock has more than quadrupled in value and was trading at $779 Thursday morning.

On the company’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call on Jan. 29, Musk was asked about raising capital since the stock had risen so dramatically.

Musk replied that the company was spending money as fast as it could spend sensibly, yet it’s still generating cash. “So in light of that, it doesn’t make sense to raise money because we expect to generate cash despite this growth level,” he told analysts.

In a note to investors, Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives called the stock sale a smart move because the shares are in a strong position as electric vehicle demand is starting to reach an inflection point, with China as the main driver.

He also wrote that the sale removes a potential cash shortage down the road. “The bulls (which we agree with) will say this essentially rips the Band-Aid off and takes the doomsday cash crunch scenario some predicted down the road now off the table," Ives wrote.

Tesla lost $862 million last year and has never posted an annual profit. But it made $105 million in the fourth quarter on record sales. At the end of last year, it had $6.27 billion in cash and equivalents on hand, almost 70% better than at the close of 2018. But its debt grew from $9.4 billion at the end of 2018 to $11.6 billion in December of 2019.

Tesla also disclosed on Thursday that the SEC in December subpoenaed information about financial data and contracts, including the company’s financing arrangements. In its annual report, the company also said the U.S. Justice Department has asked for information about Musk’s statements that he had funding secured to take the company private, and about production rates for the Model 3 sedan. The funding had not been lined up.

The SEC probe into statements about taking the company private was closed with a $40 million settlement, Tesla said. The securities agency also closed its probe into projections of Model 3 production rates, the annual report stated.

“To our knowledge no government agency in any ongoing investigation has concluded that any wrongdoing occurred,” the filing said.

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This story was corrected to show that Tesla made a $105 million net profit in the fourth quarter, not $140 million.

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