Musk defends comments made on conference call


Associated Press

NEW YORK

Tesla CEO Elon Musk went on the defensive Friday in a series of tweets, saying the people he shut down during a contentious conference call were analysts who believe investors could profit by betting that the company’s stock price will fall.

Musk came under scrutiny after the conference call to discuss Tesla’s quarterly earnings Wednesday went awry. Musk was criticized for cutting off two analysts who asked about the electric vehicle and solar panel company’s cash needs and orders for its Model 3. Musk called the questions “dry” and “not cool,” but later said there was more to his complaints than boredom.

On Twitter he said the questions came from “analysts who represent a short-seller thesis, not investors.” That is, he felt the analysts who questioned him were either betting against Tesla’s stock, a claim he didn’t present evidence for, or were only thinking about the short term while other investors want Tesla to succeed.

Musk, who owns nearly 20 percent of Tesla, also told his 21.6 million Twitter followers that investors bet against Tesla more than any other company, and vowed to prove them wrong.

In dollar terms, investors have bet more against Tesla than any other U.S. company. Thanks to Tesla’s success on the stock market, the value of the bet against it is currently about $10.9 billion, according to FactSet, a financial data provider.

But it’s not as if Wall Street or most analysts think Tesla is going to fail. FactSet says about 23 percent of Tesla shares are shorted, meaning the owners of those shares are betting the price will fall. That’s relatively high for a company of Tesla’s size.

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