Saudi Fund in talks to invest in Tesla buyout deal


DUBAI • Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is in talks that could see it becoming a significant investor in Tesla Inc as part of Elon Musk’s plan to take the electric carmaker private, according to a person with direct knowledge of the fund’s plans.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF), which has built up a stake just shy of 5% in Tesla in recent months, is exploring how it can be involved in the potential deal, the person said on condition of anonymity. Discussions began before the controversial Aug 7 tweet by Musk, who is Tesla’s co-founder and CEO, saying he was weighing a plan to take the company private.

The PIF sees its investment in Tesla as a strategic way for the world’s biggest crude producer to hedge against oil, the person said. The Saudi fund hasn’t made any firm decisions on whether to increase its stake, or by how much, but talks are ongoing, the person said. It wasn’t immediately clear how much the fund would invest in Tesla.

Musk’s tweet stunned investors, with many raising questions about his claim that funding for the venture had been secured. While the entrepreneur owns 20% of Tesla, more than US$60 billion (RM245.4 billion) would be needed to buy the business from public shareholders.

The PIF didn’t immediately respond to requests to comment. Tesla had no immediate comment.

Wall Street is awash with speculation on who might team up with Musk to do a deal. Musk and his advisors are seeking a wide pool of investors to back a potential take-private of the automaker to avoid concentrating ownership among a few new large holders, according to people familiar with the matter.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission, which has been gathering information about Tesla’s public pronouncements on manufacturing goals and sales targets, is intensifying its scrutiny of the company’s public statements in the wake of Musk’s tweet, people familiar with the matter have said.

Discussions over taking Tesla private have failed before. Musk and SoftBank Group Corp’s Masayoshi Son held talks last year that touched on taking Tesla private, two people with knowledge of the discussions have said. The discussions failed to progress due to disagreements over ownership.

The Saudi wealth fund’s current stake in the company is valued at about US$2 billion. The government is planning to turn the PIF into a US$2 trillion powerhouse to help diversify the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy.