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Elon Musk sells another 22 million Tesla shares for $3.6 billion

By Chris Isidore, CNN Business

Elon Musk just sold another 22 million shares of Tesla, raising $3.6 billion.

Musk sold the shares on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week. The sales were disclosed in an SEC filing late Wednesday.

Musk did not disclose the reason for the sales in the filing. They’re his first sales of Tesla stock since early November, when he sold 19.5 million shares shortly after closing on his purchase of Twitter.

Before Musk first started his efforts to buy Twitter, he rarely sold Tesla shares. Typically his sales were tied to what he needed to sell to pay taxes he owed on the exercise of options.

But since the first announcing plans to buy Twitter in April he has sold a total of $22.9 billion worth of Tesla stock.

Those stock sales, and the amount of his attention that has been focused on Twitter, has worried Tesla shareholders and analysts.

“The Twitter nightmare continues as Musk uses Tesla as his own ATM machine to keep funding the red ink at Twitter which gets worse by the day as more advertisers flee the platform with controversy increasing driven by Musk,” wrote Dan Ives, analyst at Wedbush Securities, in a note early Wednesday. “When does it end? This remains the worry on the Tesla story as Musk has managed to change the narrative of Tesla from the fundamental EV transformation story to a ‘source of funds’ funding the Twitter turnaround which we believe will go down as the most overpaid tech acquisition in the history of merger and acquisitions and remains a train wreck situation.”

Musk’s sales this week represent just less than 5% of the Tesla shares he held outright.

Even with these latest sales he owns 423.6 million shares of Tesla through a trust he controls, worth about $69 billion based on the average sale price he received this week, and he has options to buy nearly 279 million more shares, worth nearly $39 billion after the paying the exercise price. He’s likely to get even more options early next year after Tesla’s upcoming financial results are reported.

But the value of those shares have been dropping steadily. Tesla shares are down 55% so far this year. The drop in the value of Tesla shares is a major reason that he recently lost his title as the richest person on the planet.

Ives told CNN it’s possible that Musk is using the funds from the Tesla stock sales to cover losses at Twitter, or to pay down loans or other investors he used to help fund his $44 billion purchase. Neither would be good news for Twitter or Tesla, he said. Ives said Tesla’s board, which is made up of Musk fans, may have to place some limits on him.

“Musk is the heart and lungs of Tesla, but his attention is solely focused on Twitter, and that and selling stock on a continual basis is not a good combination for Tesla,” Ives said. “While 20% of the Tesla stock decline is due to concerns about demand and growing EV competition, 80% is because of his focus on Twitter. Twitter needs to have a CEO who’s not Musk.”

Tesla stock was down 1% in premarket trading.

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