Investor's Corner

Tesla’s Q4 FY 2020 earnings may herald $7B options payout to Elon Musk

(Credit: elon.ai)

Tesla’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) upcoming fourth quarter and full-year 2020 earnings report could trigger a massive $7 billion options payout for CEO Elon Musk –at least if the electric car maker reports numbers that are in line with analyst estimates. 

Following Wednesday’s close, analysts on average are expecting Tesla to report an adjusted EBITDA of $2.3 billion, a 92% increase from the same period last year. Provided that the electric car maker meets this figure, Elon Musk would trigger the vesting of his performance plan’s fifth tranche, allowing him to purchase TSLA shares at a discount. 

Elon Musk’s pay scheme for Tesla is rather unique due to its high-risk, high-reward nature. Approved in 2018, Musk’s performance award includes 12 milestones, comprised of $50 billion additions to Tesla’s market cap and other operational goals. Considering that the tranches of Musk’s performance award are granted with every milestone that is achieved, the CEO receives no compensation if Tesla fails to reach its targets. 

Each tranche of Musk’s payment plan gives the CEO the option to purchase 8.4 million Tesla shares at $70 each, a discount of about 90% from TSLA’s current trading price. As noted in a Reuters report, the shares from the four previous tranches and the current tranche would place their value at nearly $35 billion, or nearly $7 billion per tranche. 

While Elon Musk’s pay scheme in Tesla provides him with an opportunity to significantly increase his net worth with every tranche, it also strengthens his connections with the electric car maker. As such, the shares that Musk purchases at a discounted price would not translate to cash unless he sells them, a scenario that is quite unlikely considering the CEO’s history with the electric car maker. 

At the end of 2020, Tesla reported that it had delivered and produced half a million vehicles in one year. With this target achieved, investors are currently focused on the company’s 2021 delivery target, which would likely be more ambitious considering that Giga Shanghai’s Model Y plant is now operational, and Giga Berlin and Texas are expected to go live this year. 

Disclaimer: I am long TSLA.

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Tesla’s Q4 FY 2020 earnings may herald $7B options payout to Elon Musk
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