(Bloomberg) — Elon Musk said again that he’ll stop selling Tesla Inc. shares, after disposing almost $40 billion of his holdings contributed to the stock plummeting to a two-year low.
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“I won’t sell stock until — I don’t know — probably two years from now, definitely not next year under any circumstances, and probably not the year thereafter,” Musk said during a Twitter Spaces live-audio conversation late Thursday. Tesla shares were little changed in premarket trading as of 4:30 a.m. New York time Friday.
Musk made similar proclamations in April and August, only to then keep selling more shares to help fund his purchase of Twitter Inc. While his response to a question from longtime investor Ross Gerber may have reassured investors about one element of what’s been hurting Tesla’s stock, he offered a downbeat outlook for the economy next year.
“I think we are in a recession, and I think 2023 is going to be quite a serious recession,” Tesla’s chief executive officer said. “It’s going to be, in my opinion, comparable to 2009. I don’t know if it’s going to be a little worse or a little better, but I think it’s, in my view, likely to be comparable. That means demand for any kind of optional, discretionary item, especially if it’s a big-ticket item, will be lower.”
Tesla has had a difficult end to the year, as opposed to the “epic” one Musk had predicted. The electric-vehicle maker has cut prices and slashed production in China, and Musk has repeatedly criticized the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates. His sometimes conspiratorial and often politically charged tweeting also has turned off some consumers. To boost year-end sales in the US, the carmaker has turned to generous incentives.
After a five-day losing streak and declines in 12 of the last 14 sessions, Tesla’s market value has fallen below the $400 billion mark for the first time since November 2020. Musk said Thursday he raised cash from stock sales to prepare for a “worst-case scenario,” and that the moves reflect his fear after living through two big recessions.
In a wide-ranging conversation that lasted more than an hour, the billionaire said he favors a buyback of Tesla shares once the company is more confident in the direction of the economy. Musk also pushed back against criticism that he’s spending too much time on Twitter and not enough on Tesla.
“There’s not a single important Tesla meeting that I’ve missed this entire time, so it’s not like I’m totally missing in action,” he said, adding that Tesla is many times more complex than the social media company.
Musk also said he aims to start production of a “meaningful volume” of lithium within two years at a refinery being built in Texas for use in Tesla’s EV batteries.
–With assistance from Dana Hull and Craig Trudell.
(Updates with chart after the second paragraph, comments on the economy in the fourth paragraph.)
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