Though Elon Musk, Tesla and SolarCity’s chairman and largest shareholder, has termed the proposal a “no-brainer,” the reality, at least for Tesla shareholders, is far more complex.
From a strictly financial perspective, the deal is something Tesla shareholderscan do without. Tesla, of course, has significant ongoing cash needs without the additional burden from SolarCity. Though Tesla showed $3.2 billion in cash on its balance sheet as of June 30, that money is expected to burn quickly as Tesla prepares to bring the Model 3 sedan into production. Capital expenditures alone are expected to total $1.75 billion for the second half of the year.
Adding the struggling solar-panel developer to the mix would make this problem worse. SolarCity spent $766 million on operating expenses last year, nearly twice as much as its total revenue. Through June of this year its expenses hit $265 million, 42% more than its revenue in the first two quarters. Worse still, SolarCity has more than $3 billion in long-term debt on its books. Tesla has said it would need to raise fresh capital before the year is out, despite raising nearly $2 billion in equity financing in May.
Avoiding that burden would give Tesla more financial flexibility to launch the Model 3 on time and on budget. A successful Model 3 launch is essential for Tesla to justify its valuation, and that task becomes more urgent as legacy auto makers roll out new competition for the Model 3.