Tech

Tesla's market cap closes above $100 billion for the first time, setting Elon Musk up for a huge payday

Key Points
  • Tesla reached a $100 billion market cap for the first time Wednesday.
  • The gains could send CEO Elon Musk home with a tidy payout.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveils the Cybertruck at the TeslaDesign Studio in Hawthorne, Calif. The cracked window glass occurred during a demonstration on the strength of the glass.
Robert Hanashiro | USA TODAY | Reuters

Tesla finished the trading day with a market cap greater than $100 billion for the first time Wednesday, setting CEO Elon Musk up for a major payout.

Tesla stock shot up more than 8% in intra-day trading Wednesday, sending the market cap to more than $107 billion before the stock lost some of its gains to finish the day up 4% with a market cap of $102.7 billion.

The gains could send Musk home with a tidy payout. In 2018, Tesla's board and shareholders authorized a compensation plan for Musk, allowing him to earn options worth potentially more than $55 billion over the next decade. Musk would earn the first tranche of at least $346 million in options if Tesla's market capitalization hits and stays at $100 billion.

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Musk currently draws no salary, although he owns around 20% of the company.

To earn the payout, Musk must keep the company's market cap above $100 billion long enough to sustain that level on both a 30-day and six-month trailing average, according to a regulatory filing. The company must also hit annual revenue or EBITDA milestones at the same time in order for Musk to get that first tranche. The company would need to report either trailing four-quarter revenue of $20 billion or EBITDA (minus stock-based compensation) of $1.5 billion.

That's all assuming the compensation plan holds up in court.

Tesla stockholder Richard Tornetta sued Musk and members of Tesla's board of directors in a Delaware Chancery Court, alleging that the award is excessive, and the board's vote to give it to him amounts to a breach of fiduciary duty.

At a market cap greater than $100 billion, Tesla's market cap stands above that of General Motors and Ford combined.

Strong fourth-quarter rally

The stock, which is now up more than 30% in 2020, has rallied since Tesla reported its third-quarter earnings on Oct. 23. The shares closed that day at $250 before the earnings release, which was after the bell, and then climbed to nearly $300 in extended trading after the company reported a surprise profit.

Tesla continued to advance on its entrance into China and fourth-quarter delivery figures that exceeded Wall Street's expectations.

Tesla managed to open its Shanghai factory ahead of schedule and began deliveries of its Model 3 sedan in China at the end of 2019. It has reportedly ramped up production at that factory to more than 1,000 vehicles per week.

The company is moving forward with its plans to build a fourth factory in Germany even as the company faces local backlash over environmental concerns.

The company also impressed investors at the start of 2020 with strong fourth-quarter delivery numbers. Tesla said it delivered 112,000 vehicles in the quarter to finish out the year, which brought total vehicles delivered in 2019 to approximately 367,500 vehicles, a 50% jump from 2018.

Tesla is set to report fourth-quarter earnings after the market closes on Jan. 29.

CNBC's Lora Kolodny contributed to this report.

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