Elon Musk Tries to Sell the Tesla, SolarCity Deal

Tesla CEO Elon Musk
Tesla CEO Elon Musk
Photograph by Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a blog post and a lengthy phone call with analysts on Tuesday afternoon, representatives from SolarCity and Tesla, including the electric car company’s billionaire entrepreneur leader Elon Musk, laid out the financial argument for why the automaker should buy the energy firm.

The companies offered the details just over two weeks before the Nov. 17 vote by company shareholders on the acquisition.

This summer, Musk shocked industry-watchers by announcing that Tesla planned to buy SolarCity, a solar company run by his cousins of which he’s also the largest shareholder, for billions of dollars. A couple months later, the companies agreed to a price of $2.6 billion.

However, analysts concerned about SolarCity’s (SCTY) debt and spending dubbed the deal a bailout for the solar firm. Both companies are taking big risks, and Tesla’s own massive spending and ambitions could be compromised by SolarCity’s.

For more on the pros and cons of the Tesla deal watch our video.

In the filing posted Tuesday, Tesla (TSLA) said that it expects SolarCity to add more than a half billion dollars in cash to Tesla’s balance sheet over the next three years. Even in the fourth quarter of 2016, Tesla said it expects SolarCity to “add to Tesla’s cash position.”

Tesla also said that it expects SolarCity to contribute over $1 billion in revenue in 2017 and to immediately account for 40% of the assets of the combined company “on a historical cost basis.” Previously Musk has said there could be $150 million in savings from combing the two firms.

Musk, and his cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive, used the time on the Q&A to reposition SolarCity’s business.

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SolarCity has built a business off of raising project financing and offering home owners deals to finance solar panels over the course of 20 or so years. The idea is that a customer doesn’t have to put much money upfront, but pays SolarCity the cost of solar energy from the solar panels every month. Using this model, SolarCity has built up a customer base of about 300,000 solar roofs.

However in recent years SolarCity decided to transition into making its own solar cells, and also into offering different kinds of solar financing deals. Musk said on the call that “competing on price alone is not a good business.”

Tesla said in the new financial information that almost a third of SolarCity’s home solar deals in September were purchases (instead of leases or power purchase agreements). That means that SolarCity can recognize the revenue from selling an entire system more quickly, instead of across a 20-year leasing or power purchase agreement deal.

The companies also pointed out that more than half of SolarCity’s debt is project financing, which the companies say is readily offset by the cash flows from customers paying for solar energy.

Wall Street seemed unimpressed with the presentation. SolarCity’s stock dropped 2.47% in after hours trading. Tesla’s dropped 1.12% in after hours trading.

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