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Elon Musk Considers Taking Tesla Private, Jolting Markets

At the same time, Mr. Musk has appeared to divert his attention from the car company, becoming involved an attempt to rescue children trapped in a cave in Thailand and feuding, again over Twitter, with a diver who took part in the rescue and criticized Mr. Musk’s efforts as a publicity stunt. That outburst brought comparisons to President Trump and criticism from an investor who told Mr. Musk in an open letter his actions were “shaking investor confidence” in Tesla.

After struggling for months to streamline two assembly lines inside its factory in Fremont, Calif., Tesla built a third line underneath a gigantic tent outside the plant’s walls in a bid to meet its Model 3 goals. With that line in operation, Tesla was able to produce 5,000 Model 3 sedans in seven days in late June, the rate at which Mr. Musk has said Tesla can be profitable.

The company has never reported an annual profit since its founding in 2003. Last week, as Tesla reported a $743 million loss for the second quarter, on revenue of $4 billion, Mr. Musk said his goal was to produce quarterly profits going forward.

Still, there were signs of stress. The company said it used up more than $430 million of its remaining cash during the quarter, decreasing its cash supply to $2.2 billion. Tesla also noted that the amount it owed its suppliers ballooned in the quarter, which may have helped the company conserve cash. Its accounts payable, the balance-sheet item for yet-to-be-paid bills, totaled $3 billion at the end of the quarter, an increase of more than $425 million from the first quarter.

Mr. Levy, the analyst, said that even if Tesla went private, it would probably still need to borrow to pursue its plans for new models and new factories. “The question is whether they will have the same investor support,” he said. “As a private company with a lot of debt, the risk goes up.”

He characterized Mr. Musk’s management style as “unique.”

“There are a lot of unexpected surprises,” he said.


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