Guest essay by Eric Worrall
As Elon Musk ramps up the hype over whether Tesla will hit its Model 3 production targets, another financial disaster may be unfolding at Tesla’s subsidiary Solar City.
Tesla’s Constant Turmoil Can’t Hide The Fact That SolarCity Is Dying
JUN 22, 2018 @ 03:07 PM
I am convinced that the financial media will never end its fascination with Tesla and this week has been even more rife with intrigue than most. While the actions of self-proclaimed whistleblower Martin Tripp—including his extraordinary email exchange with CEO Elon Musk—have garnered most of the headlines, there are more relevant news items for investors. Thursday’s Reuters article has the details of Tesla’s abrupt shutdown of a major part of its SolarCity sales network, and the ending of the company’s partnership with Home Depot had been announced last week in the press release detailing Tesla’s workforce reductions.
As Tesla’s struggles to perform the most basic assembly tasks at its Fremont car plant grab the headlines, the SolarCity news is signaling to the market a reality of which I have been convinced for some time: SolarCity is worthless. So, now the focus has to shift to that transaction, in which the former Tesla Motors paid 11 million shares of its stock to a company that was also chaired by its chairman and CEO and run on a day-to-day basis by his cousin (SolarCity’s former CEO Lyndon Rive.) The conflicts of interest were so obvious then, and even though most of Tesla’s Board members recused themselves from the SolarCity acquisition process, the simple fact is that Tesla picked up a lemon when they drove SolarCity off the lot.
How would the market perceive such a write-off given that Tesla is contractually obligated to spend $5 billion in capital in the ten years following the completion of the currently-in-construction (also being built by Panasonic) Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo? I am terrible at predicting Tesla’s share price movements over the short-term, but over the long-term, SolarCity will be a huge drain on the value of a car company that has been massively overvalued for years.
How different things would have been had Hillary Clinton won. Hillary Clinton pledged to install five hundred million solar panels during her presidency. Solar City would likely have been front of the queue to supply those solar panels, and Elon Musk would likely have pocketed billions of dollars of taxpayers cash helping Clinton fulfil her solar pledge.
Perhaps a Clinton victory is what Elon Musk had in mind when he bought out Solar City, and signed binding deals to build those extravagant Gigafactories.