Elon Musk sells almost $3.6 billion worth of slumping Tesla stock

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Elon Musk, who lost his No. 1 spot on Bloomberg’s ranking of the world’s richest people this week, unloaded Tesla Inc. stock for the fourth time this year.

Tesla’s chief executive officer sold almost 22 million shares of the electric-car maker for $3.58 billion, a filing showed late Wednesday in the US. The transactions happened between December 12 and 14.

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Tesla shares have plunged 55 percent this year as investors grow increasingly concerned about Musk’s $44 billion purchase of Twitter Inc., adding to worries about rising interest rates that make cars more expensive for consumers and demand issues in China, Tesla’s largest market after the US.

Over the weekend, Musk — who is eager to stoke engagement on the social-media platform he now owns — attacked a former Twitter executive and tweeted out conspiracy theories that have alarmed even his most long-time fans.

Musk tried for months to get out of the Twitter deal but failed. To raise enough cash for the purchase, he offloaded more than $15 billion in Tesla shares — about $8.5 billion in April, then another $6.9 billion in August. In November, after vowing he was done selling, he unloaded another $3.95 billion of his stake.

Twitter has big new bills to pay.

Musk used significant amounts of borrowed money that now sits on Twitter’s balance sheet to help finance the acquisition. Twitter’s debt load has jumped to about $13 billion, up from $1.7 billion pre-deal, along with other types of bonds that could be converted into stock.

Twitter now faces annual interest payments approaching $1.2 billion — which could get even more expensive given that the interest rates on about half of that debt aren’t locked in and will rise with the market.

“At risk of stating obvious, beware of debt in turbulent macroeconomic conditions, especially when Fed keeps raising rates,” Musk tweeted this week.

Musk’s recent sales shrink his stake in the company to roughly 13 percent, according to Bloomberg data. Musk, who has been Tesla’s CEO since 2008, is still the largest shareholder.

As of Wednesday’s close, he was worth $160.9 billion, ranking No. 2 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index after France’s Bernard Arnault. His fortune has dropped by $109.4 billion this year.

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