Saudi Arabia — which Elon Musk claimed would back a buyout — cut its Tesla exposure: FT

  • Saudi Arabia has reportedly hedged nearly its entire investment in Tesla in a bid to protect against a stock price drop.
  • The move comes about five months after Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed the Saudis would back a deal to take the electric car maker private.
  • The SEC later determined that claim was "false and misleading."
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk stands on the podium as he attends a forum on startups in Hong Kong, China.
Bobby Yip | Reuters
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk stands on the podium as he attends a forum on startups in Hong Kong, China.

Saudi Arabia has reportedly taken out an insurance policy on its investment in Tesla, which dramatically cuts its net exposure to the stock, just months after CEO Elon Musk claimed the kingdom was prepared to back a deal to take the electric car maker private.

Musk settled fraud charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission in September over the claim, agreeing to step down as Tesla's chairman, pay a $20 million fine and appoint new board members.

In recent weeks, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund has hedged nearly its entire 4.9 percent stake in Tesla, the Financial Times reports. That means the PIF still holds the shares, but it has taken out other positions that protect it from a drop in Tesla's stock price.

The Financial Times first revealed the PIF's stake in August. Almost immediately after that, Musk tweeted that he had secured funding to take Tesla private at $420 per share, later explaining that the Saudis would back the buyout. The SEC later charged the remarks were "false and misleading."

According to the FT, the PIF put the hedges in place after the market closed Jan. 17 with the help of J.P. Morgan bankers. The following day, Tesla announced layoffs and warned of "very difficult" times ahead. Tesla's stock price has fallen about 15 percent since then.

Musk told the FT that there hasn't been communication with the PIF in months and Tesla is not aware whether the kingdom still holds the shares. The PIF and J.P. Morgan declined the FT's offer to comment.

Tesla's stock initially dipped by more than 2 percent on the FT report, but the shares ended the day down modestly.

While Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil exporter, its investment in electric car pioneer Tesla is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's drive to diversify the nation's economy. The PIF has become a major investor in tech companies under Crown Prince Mohammed.

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