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特斯拉大限將至?高管紛紛出貨,只有馬斯克還在買入

Erik Sherman 2019年06月27日

特斯拉的董事、現任和前任高管在不斷賣出股票,有人甚至清倉減持。

《財富》雜志此前就報道過,許多外部投資者和分析師都在努力逃出特斯拉“泥潭”。但逃走的還不只是他們。《財富》雜志查閱的文件顯示,特斯拉的一些內部人士,包括董事、現任和前任高管不斷行使期權,有些售出大部分股票,有些甚至出清,賺走數百萬美元。

根據Management CV為《財富》雜志整理的公開資料以及Factset Research收集的數據,截至2019年6月10日的18個月內,許多公司內部人士都有買入和賣出操作,從中凈賺數百萬美元,而且持股數量沒怎么變。

數據顯示,一些董事和高管通過行使期權,以遠低于市場價的價位買入股票,當天便以市場價格盡數賣出,從中獲利。看起來買入賣出操作是根據所謂的10b5-1計劃執行。根據該計劃,高管可以提前制定買賣策略和時間表,這樣一來就不會被指控為內幕交易。

雖然該過程沒有違法或鮮為人知的操作,但對投資者造成了潛在的風險。首先,有些投資者主要靠年報里的股東委托書和其他提交給美國證券交易委員會的文件來跟蹤內幕交易,現在就很困難,缺乏必要的研究時間和其他數據來源了解交易模式。

第二,交易引發了質疑,即內部人士是否仍然認同股票是優秀的長期投資手段,內部人士往往多年持有低價行權的期權,不必實際買入。盡管特斯拉的股價一度大幅反彈,但仍然遠低于2019年1月中旬接近350美元的水平。

在其他公司(包括其他汽車制造商)中,偶爾也能夠找到一些轉手期權的例子。引起專家關注的是,特斯拉內部人士扎堆采取該策略,而且查閱18個月之前的信息披露看不出來。

利益一致

之所以會用期權或股票作為報酬,理論依據是讓高管與股東擁有相似的利益,所有人都希望股票隨著時間推移不斷增值從而獲利。然而本次特斯拉的一些內部人士行使老期權,價格在20美元到30美元之間,然后立即出售,利用行權價格和當前價格之間的差額獲利。

內部人士并沒有出售已經持有的股票。而且隨著時間過去,他們還以更高的行權價獲得了額外期權。“名義上看,股權跟以前一樣,實際上卻是從中賺錢。” Management CV的首席執行官雷尼·龐福爾特在談到數據時表示。據龐福爾特介紹,如果內部人士遵循此種模式,“真實資金承受風險”更小,也意味著內部人士的利益似乎與外部股東的利益并不一致。

特斯拉和內部人士均未回復置評請求。

芝加哥大學布斯商學院的教授史蒂文·卡普蘭編寫的案例研究顯示,Valor Equity Partners的創始人安東尼奧·格雷西亞就是其中一例,他是特斯拉的第一位機構投資者。Valor曾經向特斯拉投資1450萬美元,2012年退出前獲得了近1.4億美元的收益。

格雷西亞自從2007年起擔任特斯拉的首席獨立董事。在過去18個月里,他以每股30美元左右的價格行使期權并出售股票,賺得了2840萬美元現金。然而,在一年半的買入和賣出交易后,他持有的股票總數一點未變,說明他提早計劃好行權后立刻賣出。特斯拉最新的股東委托書顯示,截至2018年年底,他仍然持有288600股期權,并持有500826股。

首席技術官杰弗里·斯特勞貝爾在18個月內凈賺2670萬美元,行權價格從每股20.72美元到31.49美元不等。他持有的股票減少了20000股。美國證券交易委員會4號表格要求公布內部人士的股票交易情況,表格顯示他于2019年5月28日以每股31.49美元的價格買入了15000股股票,又以188.48美元至194.58美元的價格賣出15000股股票,最后仍然持有306398股股票,實際上就是完成了期權轉手。2018年12月28日至2019年5月28日期間,斯特勞貝爾將買賣15000股的模式如法炮制了6次,持股數始終保持在306398股。

布萊德·巴斯2009年起進入特斯拉的董事會,被列為獨立董事。他曾經在太陽能電池板安裝公司SolarCity擔任首席財務官,SolarCity由特斯拉的首席執行官埃隆·馬斯克的兩個堂兄弟聯合創建。2016年,特斯拉收購了該公司,之前馬斯克曾經擔任SolarCity的董事長。巴斯倒騰股票賺了1790萬美元,持股也凈增了4666股。截至2018年年底,他持有204082股流通股期權,另持有165790股。

迪帕克·阿胡亞曾經兩次擔任特斯拉的首席財務官,一次是2008年至2015年,另一次是2017年,2019年年初離開公司。阿胡亞凈賺了420萬美元。2018年年底他持有95465股。

埃隆·馬斯克的兄弟金巴爾·馬斯克凈賣出了2190股,賺到290萬美元。截至2018年年底,金巴爾擁有209444股股票,又獲得100000股期權。

道格拉斯·菲爾德之前離開消費電子巨頭蘋果加入特斯拉,2018年重返蘋果。他的凈持股減少了1989股,凈賺近310萬美元。根據特斯拉2018年股東委托書,截至2017年年底,他持有42728股股票。

某些內部人士出售股票可能有多種原因,可能是為行使期權繳稅,釋放現金實現持股多樣化,或是為子女大學籌學費等。事實上,查閱美國證券交易委員會的文件后發現,一些案例中賣出股票確實是為了自動支付稅款。有些2012年的老期權在2019年到期,可能促使人們行使期權,盡管不一定能解釋立刻賣出股票的行為。內部人士通常將期權當成潛在的持股,而且一般會推遲現金支出。

“很難充分理解或判斷某位董事的個人情況,以及此人如何調整財務計劃。”投資顧問比爾·弗蘭卡維拉表示,“但如果幾位(內部人士)都在賣出,能發現趨勢,可能就是不同的情況了。”

舉例來說,如果不少內部人士將行使期權買得的股票大部分或全部售出,可能是對股票未來價值信心不足的跡象。“如果我是股東就會產生懷疑,而且很關注。”弗蘭卡維拉說。

別人賣,馬斯克買

也有人明顯的例外,就是埃隆·馬斯克。18個月里,他花了9520萬美元買入470139股股票,但沒有賣出。買入的股票中有175000股行使了期權,價格為31.17美元,其余股票則是以每股243至351.40美元的價格買入。

像馬斯克一樣身居高位為何還要增持股份,主要原因可能有四個:向股東表現充滿信心、提升投票權、解決銀行貸款的需求,或者為了賣空股票。

提升投票權似乎不太可能。2019年的股東委托書顯示,不管跟馬斯克已經持有的近3860萬股相比,還是跟已經發行的股份總數相比,他買入的股票數量均微不足道。馬斯克向來憎恨賣空者,所以也不太可能是為了賣空,不過也存在可能性,而且從外部很難判斷。

那么只剩下兩個潛在的原因,其中之一便是提升對公司的信心。

“很多上市公司高管都會增持。”EisnerAmper個人財富顧問集團聯席負責人蒂莫西·斯皮斯表示,“他們經常是真心買入,想表達對公司的支持。”

然而在馬斯克的案例中,特斯拉2019年的股東委托書顯示,他“已用13394056股股票作為某些個人債務的抵押品”,幾乎占到他持有3860萬股股份的35%。

抵押數比2018年的13774897股有所下降,但比2017年的11450723股明顯上升。

投資者丹尼·摩西持有特斯拉股票的空頭頭寸,他認為馬斯克增持的部分原因是現金短缺。據《洛杉磯時報》報道,2019年年初,馬斯克抵押加州的5處房產,貸款了6100萬美元。

根據特斯拉的股東委托書,董事會要求“質押股票擔保最大貸款總額或投資金額不得超過質押股票總價值的25%”。如果股價走低,未償貸款金額可能超過股票價值,也就是說馬斯克需要更多股票才能符合要求。

特斯拉的一位發言人稱,暗示增持是為了符合質押要求“明顯不實”,并補充說馬斯克增持只是為了表示對股票的信心。

不管所有交易背后原因是什么,如果投資者想搭上特斯拉這輛車,最好先仔細觀察下。(財富中文網)

譯者:Charlie

審校:夏林

Many Tesla outside investors and analysts have been jumping ship from the “quagmire” some see the company having become, as Fortune previously reported. But it’s not just them. Some Tesla insiders—directors and current and former officers—have been consistently exercising options and then selling most or all of those shares, pulling millions of dollars out in the process, according to documents reviewed by Fortune.

Data from public filings and Factset Research, compiled for Fortune by Management CV, which monitors activity of senior executives that run public companies, shows that a number of insiders have, over the 18 months through June 10, 2019, performed combinations of purchases and sales that have left them with millions of dollars in net proceeds and roughly the same amount of stock as they already had.

The data show that some directors and executives were exercising options to buy stock at far below current market prices and selling virtually identical numbers of shares at market prices on the same days, thereby extracting value. The purchases and sales appear to have happened under a so-called Rule 10b5-1 plan, in which executives set their buying and selling strategies and schedules in advance so they can’t be accused of insider trading.

While there is nothing illegal or unheard of about this process, it raises potential red flags for investors. First, it becomes more difficult for individual investors who may depend on annual proxy statements and other SEC filings to track insider selling, and lack the necessary research time and other data sources to see the trading patterns.

Second, the trading raises the question of whether insiders, who may have held some low-strike-price options for years without having to buy the shares, think the stock remains a good longer-term investment. Although Tesla stock has seen substantial recovery in the last week, rising from the June 3 close of $178.97 to $213.91 a share at the end of Thursday, the share price is still far below its level of nearly $350 in mid-January 2019.

Occasional examples of essentially flipping options can be found in other companies, including other auto manufacturers. What stood out to experts was the concentration of insiders engaging in this strategy at Tesla, something an examination of some filings did not show before this 18-month period.

Aligned interests

The theory behind using options or stock as compensation is that executives will have similar interests to shareholders, and everyone will hope to make money from increased share value over time. In this case, some of the insiders exercised older options with strike prices in the $20 to $30 range and then immediately sold them, profiting in the difference between the strike and current prices.

The insiders weren’t selling shares they already explicitly held. In addition, over time, they’ve received additional options at much higher strike prices. “Nominally, my beneficial equity stake is the same as it was, but what I’ve done is extract that wealth,” said Management CV CEO Renny Ponvert, of the data. Insiders who follow this pattern may have less “real money at risk,” as Ponvert said, meaning their interests may not seem as aligned with those of outside shareholders.

Tesla and the insiders did not respond to a request to Tesla for comment.

Some examples are Antonio Gracias, founder of Valor Equity Partners, which was the first institutional investor in Tesla, according to a case study prepared by University of Chicago Booth School of Business professor Steven Kaplan. Valor invested $14.5 million into the company, generating almost $140 million for its funds before exiting the investment in 2012.

Gracias has been the lead independent director of Tesla since 2007. Over the last 18 months, he netted out $28.4 million in cash through selling shares and exercising options, at prices around $30 a share. However, the total number of shares that he bought and sold after the transactions during the year-and-a-half exactly balanced, so he had planned to sell as fast as he exercised them. As of the end of 2018, he still had options left for 288,600 shares and held 500,826 shares, according to the latest Tesla proxy statement.

Chief technical officer Jeffrey Straubel netted out $26.7 million over the 18-month period, exercising options at anywhere from $20.72 to $31.49 a share. He ended up with a net drop of 20,000 shares. An SEC Form 4, required to show stock transactions of insiders, showed him on May 28, 2019 buying 15,000 shares at $31.49 each and selling 15,000 at prices ranging from $188.48 to $194.58. At the end, he still held 306,398 shares, essentially flipping the exercised options. Straubel has used the same pattern of buying and selling 15,000 shares, always maintaining the total 306,398 shares, six times between Dec. 28, 2018 and May 28, 2019.

Brad Buss has been on the Tesla board since 2009 and is listed as an independent director. He was the CFO for SolarCity, the solar panel installation company co-founded by two cousins of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, until 2016, the year that Tesla bought the company. Musk had also been chairman of SolarCity. Buss pulled out $17.9 million from his shares, finishing with a net increase of 4,666 shares. He had 204,082 option shares outstanding and held 165,790 shares at the end of 2018.

Deepak Ahuja served twice as CFO of Tesla, first from 2008 to 2015 and then again from 2017 until he left the company early in 2019. Ahuja netted $4.2 million. At the end of 2018, he owned 95,465 shares.

Elon Musk’s brother, Kimbal Musk, made $2.9 million with a net disposal of 2,190 shares and at the end of 2018 had 209,444 shares and options for an additional 100,000.

Douglas Field, who left Apple to join Tesla and then returned to the consumer electronics giant in 2018, took out almost $3.1 million with a net drop of 1989 shares. At the end of 2017, he had 42,728 shares, according to the Tesla 2018 proxy statement.

There are many possible explanations for why a given insider might decide to sell shares, including paying taxes on exercised options, freeing cash to diversify holdings, or covering some bill like the cost of a child’s college education. In fact, in a few cases, an examination of SEC filings showed that some sales of shares were automatic to cover taxes. Some older options from 2012 had expiration dates in 2019, which could have prompted their exercise, although it wouldn’t necessarily explain the immediate sale of the resulting shares. Insiders often treat options as a way of holding potential shares while delaying any cash outlay.

“You can never fully understand or determine what is going on inside the profile of one individual director and his or her financial plans,” said Bill Francavilla, an investment advisor. “But if several [insiders] are selling and you see a trend, that might be something different.”

For example, if a number of insiders are flipping most or all the shares they acquire from exercising options, it could also be a sign they have less confidence in the future value of the shares. “I would be suspicious and expect to pay a lot more attention if I was a shareholder,” Francavilla said.

While others sell, Musk buys

One clear exception to any broader patterns is Elon Musk. Over the 18-month period, he spent $95.2 million on 470,139 shares and did not sell any. Of the shares he purchased, 175,000 were options he exercised at a strike price of $31.17. The rest, however, were purchased at anywhere from $243 to $351.40 a share.

There are four common reasons why someone in Musk’s position might be bulking up his holdings, particularly when buying shares on open markets: to signal to shareholders his belief in the company, to build a bigger shareholder voting position, to deal with demands from bank loans, or to short the stock.

Trying to build a bigger voting position seems highly unlikely. The number of shares he’s gained are insignificant in comparison to either the nearly 38.6 million he already holds, according to the 2019 proxy statement, or the total number of outstanding shares. Given Musk’s antagonism toward short sellers, taking such a position might also seem unlikely, although certainly conceivable and one impossible to discern from the outside.

That leaves two potential reasons. One is to promote faith in the company.

“We’ve seen a lot of executives of public companies buying,” said Timothy Speiss, co-leader of the personal wealth advisors group at EisnerAmper. “It’s often that they’re buying form their heart and they’re trying to show support for the company.”

However, in Musk’s case, Tesla’s 2019 proxy statement shows that he has “13,394,056 shares pledged as collateral to secure certain personal indebtedness,” which is almost 35% of the 38.6 million shares he beneficially owns.

That is down somewhat from the 13,774,897 pledged in 2018 but up considerably from 11,450,723 pledged in 2017.

Investor Danny Moses, who does hold short positions on Tesla stock, thinks that at least part of Musk’s purchases are because of a cash crunch. In early 2019, Musk took out $61 million in mortgages on five properties in California, according to the Los Angeles Times.

According to the Tesla proxy statement, the company’s board requires that “the maximum aggregate loan or investment amount collateralized by such pledged stock does not exceed twenty-five percent (25%) of the total value of the pledged stock.” With the lower share value, it could be that outstanding loans might have exceeded the value of the stock, which would mean Musk would need more shares to meet the requirement.

A Tesla spokesperson called the suggestion that the purchase was a pledge requirement “patently false” and added that Musk was only trying to convey confidence in the stock.

Whatever the reasons for all the trading, investors might want to look closely before catching a ride with Tesla.

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