Tesla call options jump on Musk tweet, short-sellers hurt

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

Regulators suspended trading in Tesla Inc's stock late Tuesday after Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Twitter that he was considering taking the electric vehicle maker private at $420 per share.

The unusual step taken early Tuesday afternoon came shortly after Musk dropped a bombshell on his Twitter account by announcing he had lined up the financing to buy all of Tesla's stock at $420 per share. About an hour and 20 minutes after the Musk tweet, trading in Tesla stock was suspended because the company was expected to release news.

The SEC did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment on Musk's tweets.

Musk has occasionally griped about the frustrations of running a public company: a year ago he called Tesla a "drama magnet" - and he has vowed not to do an initial public offering for his other major venture, SpaceX, until after regular trips to Mars begin, if ever.

At first glance, it was not clear how seriously to take Mr Musk's messages.

Mr Musk's statement came at a time when the electric auto maker faces financial constraints, and barely a week after the company announced it had made its biggest net loss to date of $717.5m (£547.6m) during the second quarter ending in June.

The stock was halted at $366.94 per share.

One block of 714 Tesla call options, betting on the shares rising above $365 by the end of the week, were bought for 85 cents, for a total outlay of $60,690, at 12:21 p.m. EDT.

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The executive posted on Twitter, "Am considering taking Tesla private at $420 a share". And finally, he maintains that going private isn't about accumulating control for himself: "I own about 20% of the company now, and I don't envision that being substantially different after any deal is completed", Musk wrote.

The stock had already been heading upwards after news about a Saudi Arabian fund with a large (about 3 to 5 percent) stake in the electric auto company. The company had a market value of $58 billion as of Monday's close.

In 2013, he emailed SpaceX employees that he was "hesitant to foist being public" on the company "given the long term nature of our mission". I think he's serious.

The surprise announcements prompted former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt to question whether Musk had broken securities laws.

Short interest in Tesla on Tuesday stood at almost $13 billion, according to S3 Partners, a financial analytics firm.

George Galliers, analyst at Evercore ISI said he believed the tweet was serious.

Musk's target for taking the company private would value it at more than $82 billion, according to Bloomberg.

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