Tesla Model 3: What Elon Musk’s $25 Million Stock Purchase Can Tell Us

Is Elon sending us a signal?

by James Dennin

Legal, properly disclosed insider buying or selling is a carefully studied metric among stock analysts because it’s seen as a stand-in for how confident executives are in the future of the company. It’s one thing to cash a paycheck, it’s quite another to put your own money on the line when it comes to your company’s future. So of course, speculation swirled when Tesla CEO Elon Musk picked up another 70,000 shares of Tesla, according to a Form 4 published on the company’s website.

Musk now owns nearly 20% of the company, making him by far the largest shareholder with a stake that, as of Thursday morning was worth some $11 billion (the value of a stake that large can change a lot as the stock price moves throughout the day). The new shares amount to a robust drop in the bucket, worth about $25 million.

So what’s going on here? It makes sense to start with the money: Tesla stock has performed pretty well since the company’s last shareholder’s meeting, wherein Musk dropped the bombshell announcement that the company planned to hit its long sought milestone of producing 5,000 a week by the end of the month. Tesla’s trading at about $350 per share as of Thursday morning, while his Form 4 indicates that roughly half of the shares he purchased were for about $342. That’s already a pretty tidy profit.

What Elon Musk’s Stock Purchase Says About the Model 3

But there may also be more going on here. People tend to interpret these purchases as a sign that the CEO is feeling confident in the company. In this particular case, that likely means he’s confident (or wants to appear confident) about hitting the rapidly approaching Model 3 production milestone that’s so essential to the company’s profitability. At the very least, Musk’s move also reduces the number of shares available to other buyers, sure to turn up the heat on Tesla’s short sellers, people betting the stock will fail.

Depending on how you look at them, short sellers are either heroes who promote transparency and expose fraud or predators who sling mud at the real innovators to make a quick profit. It takes serious guts: You have to borrow someone else’s shares, sell them, and then buy them back at a cheaper price to turn a profit. In the meanwhile, you’re sweating buckets over every cent the stock climbs higher, and likely spending lots of time on CNBC or Bloomberg, raising doubts and trying to convince everyone the company you’re betting against is a total scam. CEOs are not the biggest fans.

On the other hand, it’s also important not to read too much into the personal stock purchases of executives who, despite their immense wealth can still experience a pretty uneven cashflow. Roofs leak, cars break down, kids graduate from expensive schools, unexpected windfalls can come in. Musk’s decision and ability to put some more cash into his company could have as much to do with his personal finances as the messages he’s sending or the strategy he’s trying to carry out.

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