Elon Musk is using Tesla as his personal ‘ATM machine’ after cashing out another $3.5 billion in stock. It’s a ‘train wreck situation,’ Wedbush’s Dan Ives says

December 15, 2022, 6:26 PM UTC
Tesla CEO Elon Musk talks to the press at the construction site of the new Tesla Gigafactory near Berlin on September 03, 2020 near Gruenheide, Germany.
CEO Elon Musk talks to the press at the construction site of Tesla’s gigafactory near Berlin on Sept. 3, 2020.
Maja Hitij—Getty Images

Elon Musk sold another $3.58 billion in Tesla stock this week, bringing his total sales since November of last year to nearly $40 billion—and investors aren’t happy about it.

Wedbush’s tech analyst Dan Ives argues that Musk is using his “golden child” Tesla to fund not only the initial $44 billion cost of his Twitter acquisition, but also to backstop the social media giant’s losses. 

“The Twitter nightmare continues,” he wrote in a Thursday research note. “Musk uses Tesla as his own ATM machine to keep funding the red ink at Twitter, which gets worse by the day.”

Twitter has struggled to turn a steady profit throughout its history as a public company, but it’s take-private by Musk saddled the company with a sizable $13 billion debt load, to boot. Before the acquisition, Twitter had just $1.7 billion in debt, but now, it will be on the hook for $1.2 billion in interest payments each year.

Ives has long been a Tesla bull, but he recently removed the EV giant from Wedbush’s Best Ideas list as a result of Musk’s equity sales—which amount to more than 75% of the $52 billion market value of the world’s fifth largest automaker, Ford.

Ives wrote that he believes Musk has tarnished Tesla’s reputation with his Twitter takeover and subsequent “controversy” in the media. 

“Investor frustration is building as the Musk brand has quickly deteriorated over the past six months and has taken an accelerated turn for the worse since he officially took over Twitter ownership,” Ives said, adding that advertisers are fleeing Twitter, leaving Musk in a “train wreck situation.”

Tesla stock is down more than 60% this year, and 17% this month amid Musk’s sales and the ongoing bear market in stocks. The Tesla CEO even lost his title as the world’s richest person this month to French billionaire Bernard Arnault.

“When does it end?” Ives wrote. “Musk continues to throw gasoline in the burning fire around the Tesla story by selling more stock and creating Tesla brand deterioration through his actions on Twitter.”

Musk’s latest Tesla sales may come as a surprise to the company’s loyal investors, because the Tesla CEO said back in April that he was done selling shares.

“No further TSLA sales planned after today,” he tweeted.

Ives isn’t so sure, noting this isn’t the first time Musk has said one thing but done another, selling $6.9 billion worth of Tesla stock in August and another $3.95 billion in November.

Ives said these sales “put massive pressure” on Tesla’s stock. 

“This is a boy that cried wolf situation with the Street and bulls worried what is around the corner for Musk in this spider web of Tesla and Twitter,” he wrote.

Ives also wrote that he believes investors’ frustrations with Musk’s sales will eventually boil over, forcing Tesla’s board of directors to “confront some of these issues head-on in the near term.”

“This is a moment of truth for Musk and Tesla (and the board),” he wrote. 

Despite the rough patch for Tesla, Ives still remains bullish on the EV giant over the long term. He argues that once the Twitter “overhang” fades, Tesla’s long-term growth story will become the focus of investors, enabling shares to rise.

Wedbush holds an “outperform” rating on shares of Tesla—equivalent to a “buy” rating—and a $250 12-month price target.

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