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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Two big Tesla shareholders cut stakes before Musk tweeted private plan

T Rowe Price Group funds, once the second-biggest Tesla shareholder after Mr Musk, and Fidelity reduced their holdings in second quarter, filings show

A Tesla showroom in Washington, DC. At least twi major investors reduced shares in the firm. AFP
A Tesla showroom in Washington, DC. At least twi major investors reduced shares in the firm. AFP

Two major Tesla shareholders cut their stakes in the electric automaker during the second quarter, before chief executive Elon Musk announced he would try to take the company private earlier this month.

T Rowe Price Group funds, once the second-biggest Tesla shareholder after Mr Musk, cut their holdings by nearly a quarter to 11.9 million shares in the three months ended June 30, according to a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The disclosure comes days after Fidelity Investments, another top-10 shareholder, said in an earlier filing it cut its Tesla stake by 21 per cent during the quarter.

Mr Musk faces investor lawsuits claiming fraud and a probe by the SEC after sending a tweet on August 7 that there was "funding secured" to take Tesla private. No investors have confirmed their involvement.

Tesla's board named a special committee on Tuesday to evaluate any plans to go private but said it had not seen a firm offer.

It was not clear why T Rowe Price and Fidelity reduced their Tesla holdings or whether they support a move by the company to go private. During the second quarter, investors were focused on the company's efforts to turn out new Model 3 saloons without burning cash at a faster pace.

In addition to stock, Fidelity and T Rowe Price retained a type of bond issued by Tesla that can convert to stock under certain conditions, their filings showed. On Tuesday billionaire investor George Soros disclosed his firm also retained a stake in Tesla convertible notes during the quarter.

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Representatives for Tesla and Mr Soros did not respond to inquiries from Reuters. Fidelity and T Rowe Price declined to comment.

CFRA analyst Efraim Levy said there could be many reasons why the funds trimmed their positions. Some also may not be allowed to hold the company's stock if it goes private.

"A lot of these mutual funds, who are the large shareholders, they can't necessarily buy and hold private company's stock," he said.

Not all investors cut back on Tesla holdings. Jennison Associates, for instance, increased its holdings by a third to 4.3 million shares, a filing showed. Jennison owner Prudential Financial did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fund managers disclose their holdings quarterly in "13F" filings with the SEC. But the disclosures come 45 days after the end of each quarter and may not reflect current positions or their full portfolios.

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