Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA)’s CEO, Elon Musk, recently exercised a portion of his options to purchase Tesla shares worth $100 million. To put that in perspective, Musk purchased 523,000 shares of his company at a price of $6.63 apiece. That reportedly happened when Tesla shares were trading at around $192, meaning a profit of roughly $185 per share.
Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) also announced that Musk spent $50 million of his own money to cover taxes and other expenses related to the options purchase.
Is the move positive or negative?
The kind of options that Musk recently exercised was supposed to show investors that insiders have faith in the future direction of Tesla stock. The public becomes more confident in a stock’s long-term outlook when they see insiders increasing their exposure to it. That may have been the message Musk intended to send.
However, the time of exercising the options leaves much to be desired. Being who he is, the cofounder and CEO of Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA), Musk certainly knows what’s coming up in the 4Q2015 earnings announcement. The question many are asking is whether Musk’s exercising of options is cleverly designed to calm investors ahead of a disappointing earnings report.
4Q earnings expectations
Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) already reported that it sold more vehicle units in the last three months of 2015 than in a similar period in the prior year. The announcement set a positive tone for the company’s upcoming full earnings report, but investors are also looking for more details in the same report. Among other things, investors will be looking for updates on Model X production and delivery. The company will also be expected to say something fresh about Model 3 launch as well as the progress of its so-called Gigafactory. As such, if the company disappoints expectations, shares might be seen sliding down.
Did Musk just have to do it?
Musk wasn’t under pressure to exercise the stock options because they weren’t about to expire. The option would have only been worthless if Musk waited until after the end of December 2016. That is one other reason exercising the options just ahead of the earnings call appears suspect.