“Much is made lately of unrealized gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock. Do you support this?”
That was a late Saturday tweet from the electric-car maker’s
chief executive officer Elon Musk, whose attached poll gathered 3,519,252 votes by the time it ws all over Sunday afternoon. And the result: 58% in favor and 42% against.
Musk said he would “abide by the results of this poll, whichever way it goes,” and that he doesn’t “take a cash salary or bonus from anywhere. I only have stock, thus the only way for me to pay taxes personally is to sell stock.”
Of the 48,000-plus who responded to Musk’s tweet, many expressed concern that such a sale would tank the stock, hurting average investors who have benefited anew from a recent record run for shares,
Tesla shot to a new high last week of $1,229.91 a share, and surged 43% in October. The company’s market capitalization climbing past $1 trillion after Hertz Global
announced plans on Oct. 25 to order 100,000 Tesla vehicles. Days later Musk questioned the rally seen for the stock as he said no deal with Hertz had been signed yet.
Shares of Tesla finished up 9% last week, just off that record high at $1,222.09, and have gained 73% so far this year. Musk himself holds about a 17% stake in Tesla that’s worth more than $200 billion. A 10% chunk, if he decided to sell, would be worth around $21 billion based on Friday’s close, according to FactSet.
Musk himself has said Tesla’s share price may be too high, as he repeated in a September interview with Kara Swisher for the New York Times. “But if you also ask me, do I think Tesla will be worth more than this in five years? I think the answer is, yes,” he told her.
In that same interview, Musk also said he planned to sell a large block of stock options in the fourth quarter.
For now, he may have created some built-in tension for the stock market’s upcoming week as investors wait to hear more on his promised stake sale. All three major U.S. stock benchmarks
In late October, Musk slammed a proposed new annual tax on billionaires’ unrealized capital gains, saying he agreed with the view that this type of tax eventually would hit others as well. “Eventually, they run out of other people’s money and then they come for you,” he said, in response to another comment on Twitter.
Musk is by far the world’s richest billionaire, with a net worth of $314 billion, according to Forbes real-time billionaire’s list. Trailing by around $100 billion is Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, who is worth $203 billion.
“Elon wants the stock lower for good reasons,” said Tesla investor Ross Gerber, CEO of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Investment Management, in emailed comments. “Being a bubble stock isn’t good for Tesla as a company.”
“You want employees working, not staring at stock prices pretending they are rich. You hire new employees. You want them to have upside. Overvalued stocks serve only the sellers,” said Gerber.
But perhaps for some, the price of Tesla shares is still well away from where it can go. Wedbush analysts Dan Ives and John Katsingris lifted their Tesla bull case to $1,800 a share from $1,500, in a note to clients that published Sunday. The “underlying growth story for EV demand skyrocketing globally is the key fundamental driver for Musk & Co. into 2022,” they wrote.
The increasing China demand story alone is worth $300 per share for the stock in 2022, as they see the country representing 40% of deliveries for Tesla next year.