Following Tesla founder Elon Musk's settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, investors are turning their attention to production levels of the Model 3, the company’s mass-market electric car.
And that might not be a bad thing.
Shareholders and analysts had grown increasingly concerned in recent weeks that Musk’s personal antics were overshadowing at the Palo Alto, Calif.-based carmaker's work toward buoying output and delivering a profit. Now, after a tumultuous quarter, the firm will reportedly soon announce it overcame past production issues to build a record 80,000 vehicles in the three months through September.
For his part, Musk quickly brushed off the SEC settlement over issues regarding his proposal to take the company private for $420 a share. In a company-wide email sent hours after the agency announced the terms, he urged employees to execute “really well” on Sunday, the last day of the third quarter.
“We are very close to achieving profitability and proving the naysayers wrong,” Musk wrote in the note, according to a filing with the SEC. “If we go all-out tomorrow, we will achieve an epic victory beyond all expectations.”
Tesla’s stock rose 16 percent to $307.76 in New York trading on Monday. The SEC settlement was viewed as a positive, both because it avoided a potentially damaging public suit and allowed Musk to remain chief executive officer of the automaker – a key reason why many investors pay a premium for the shares.
"Historically, Tesla has had easy access to capital markets, largely due to the public’s perception of Musk as a visionary," Colin Langan, an analyst with the Swiss lender UBS, said. "Without Musk, investors may no longer be willing to continue funding a company that has never reported an annual profit."
Under the settlement. Musk will relinquish his role as chairman of Tesla's board, and he and the company will pay separate $20 million fines.
“Tesla’s maturity compared to other public companies of its market capitalization has been below average,” Joseph Spak, an analyst with RBC Capital Market, wrote in a note on Sunday. “The splitting of the CEO and chairman role, as well as the addition of two more independent directors" are positive steps toward improving the company's governance, he said.
Within the past two months alone, Musk generated a spree of controversial headlines. His early August comment on Twitter that funding had been secured to take the company private, for example, prompted the SEC's lawsuit, which alleged that the facts didn't back him up.
He also garnered attention for smoking pot on a podcast hosted by U.S. comedian Joe Rogan and was targeted in a defamation lawsuit by a British diver whom he had accused of pedophilia. A slew of executives also departed the company, leaving it with some key vacancies in top management.