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特斯拉大限将至?高管纷纷出货,只有马斯克还在买入

Erik Sherman 2019年06月27日

特斯拉的董事、现任和前任高管在不断卖出股票,有人甚至清仓减持。

《财富》杂志此前就报道过,许多外部投资者和分析师都在努力逃出特斯拉“泥潭”。但逃走的还不只是他们。《财富》杂志查阅的文件显示,特斯拉的一些内部人士,包括董事、现任和前任高管不断行使期权,有些售出大部分股票,有些甚至出清,赚走数百万美元。

根据Management CV为《财富》杂志整理的公开资料以及Factset Research收集的数据,截至2019年6月10日的18个月内,许多公司内部人士都有买入和卖出操作,从中净赚数百万美元,而且持股数量没怎么变。

数据显示,一些董事和高管通过行使期权,以远低于市场价的价位买入股票,当天便以市场价格尽数卖出,从中获利。看起来买入卖出操作是根据所谓的10b5-1计划执行。根据该计划,高管可以提前制定买卖策略和时间表,这样一来就不会被指控为内幕交易。

虽然该过程没有违法或鲜为人知的操作,但对投资者造成了潜在的风险。首先,有些投资者主要靠年报里的股东委托书和其他提交给美国证券交易委员会的文件来跟踪内幕交易,现在就很困难,缺乏必要的研究时间和其他数据来源了解交易模式。

第二,交易引发了质疑,即内部人士是否仍然认同股票是优秀的长期投资手段,内部人士往往多年持有低价行权的期权,不必实际买入。尽管特斯拉的股价一度大幅反弹,但仍然远低于2019年1月中旬接近350美元的水平。

在其他公司(包括其他汽车制造商)中,偶尔也能够找到一些转手期权的例子。引起专家关注的是,特斯拉内部人士扎堆采取该策略,而且查阅18个月之前的信息披露看不出来。

利益一致

之所以会用期权或股票作为报酬,理论依据是让高管与股东拥有相似的利益,所有人都希望股票随着时间推移不断增值从而获利。然而本次特斯拉的一些内部人士行使老期权,价格在20美元到30美元之间,然后立即出售,利用行权价格和当前价格之间的差额获利。

内部人士并没有出售已经持有的股票。而且随着时间过去,他们还以更高的行权价获得了额外期权。“名义上看,股权跟以前一样,实际上却是从中赚钱。” Management CV的首席执行官雷尼·庞福尔特在谈到数据时表示。据庞福尔特介绍,如果内部人士遵循此种模式,“真实资金承受风险”更小,也意味着内部人士的利益似乎与外部股东的利益并不一致。

特斯拉和内部人士均未回复置评请求。

芝加哥大学布斯商学院的教授史蒂文·卡普兰编写的案例研究显示,Valor Equity Partners的创始人安东尼奥·格雷西亚就是其中一例,他是特斯拉的第一位机构投资者。Valor曾经向特斯拉投资1450万美元,2012年退出前获得了近1.4亿美元的收益。

格雷西亚自从2007年起担任特斯拉的首席独立董事。在过去18个月里,他以每股30美元左右的价格行使期权并出售股票,赚得了2840万美元现金。然而,在一年半的买入和卖出交易后,他持有的股票总数一点未变,说明他提早计划好行权后立刻卖出。特斯拉最新的股东委托书显示,截至2018年年底,他仍然持有288600股期权,并持有500826股。

首席技术官杰弗里·斯特劳贝尔在18个月内净赚2670万美元,行权价格从每股20.72美元到31.49美元不等。他持有的股票减少了20000股。美国证券交易委员会4号表格要求公布内部人士的股票交易情况,表格显示他于2019年5月28日以每股31.49美元的价格买入了15000股股票,又以188.48美元至194.58美元的价格卖出15000股股票,最后仍然持有306398股股票,实际上就是完成了期权转手。2018年12月28日至2019年5月28日期间,斯特劳贝尔将买卖15000股的模式如法炮制了6次,持股数始终保持在306398股。

布莱德·巴斯2009年起进入特斯拉的董事会,被列为独立董事。他曾经在太阳能电池板安装公司SolarCity担任首席财务官,SolarCity由特斯拉的首席执行官埃隆·马斯克的两个堂兄弟联合创建。2016年,特斯拉收购了该公司,之前马斯克曾经担任SolarCity的董事长。巴斯倒腾股票赚了1790万美元,持股也净增了4666股。截至2018年年底,他持有204082股流通股期权,另持有165790股。

迪帕克·阿胡亚曾经两次担任特斯拉的首席财务官,一次是2008年至2015年,另一次是2017年,2019年年初离开公司。阿胡亚净赚了420万美元。2018年年底他持有95465股。

埃隆·马斯克的兄弟金巴尔·马斯克净卖出了2190股,赚到290万美元。截至2018年年底,金巴尔拥有209444股股票,又获得100000股期权。

道格拉斯·菲尔德之前离开消费电子巨头苹果加入特斯拉,2018年重返苹果。他的净持股减少了1989股,净赚近310万美元。根据特斯拉2018年股东委托书,截至2017年年底,他持有42728股股票。

某些内部人士出售股票可能有多种原因,可能是为行使期权缴税,释放现金实现持股多样化,或是为子女大学筹学费等。事实上,查阅美国证券交易委员会的文件后发现,一些案例中卖出股票确实是为了自动支付税款。有些2012年的老期权在2019年到期,可能促使人们行使期权,尽管不一定能解释立刻卖出股票的行为。内部人士通常将期权当成潜在的持股,而且一般会推迟现金支出。

“很难充分理解或判断某位董事的个人情况,以及此人如何调整财务计划。”投资顾问比尔·弗兰卡维拉表示,“但如果几位(内部人士)都在卖出,能发现趋势,可能就是不同的情况了。”

举例来说,如果不少内部人士将行使期权买得的股票大部分或全部售出,可能是对股票未来价值信心不足的迹象。“如果我是股东就会产生怀疑,而且很关注。”弗兰卡维拉说。

别人卖,马斯克买

也有人明显的例外,就是埃隆·马斯克。18个月里,他花了9520万美元买入470139股股票,但没有卖出。买入的股票中有175000股行使了期权,价格为31.17美元,其余股票则是以每股243至351.40美元的价格买入。

像马斯克一样身居高位为何还要增持股份,主要原因可能有四个:向股东表现充满信心、提升投票权、解决银行贷款的需求,或者为了卖空股票。

提升投票权似乎不太可能。2019年的股东委托书显示,不管跟马斯克已经持有的近3860万股相比,还是跟已经发行的股份总数相比,他买入的股票数量均微不足道。马斯克向来憎恨卖空者,所以也不太可能是为了卖空,不过也存在可能性,而且从外部很难判断。

那么只剩下两个潜在的原因,其中之一便是提升对公司的信心。

“很多上市公司高管都会增持。”EisnerAmper个人财富顾问集团联席负责人蒂莫西·斯皮斯表示,“他们经常是真心买入,想表达对公司的支持。”

然而在马斯克的案例中,特斯拉2019年的股东委托书显示,他“已用13394056股股票作为某些个人债务的抵押品”,几乎占到他持有3860万股股份的35%。

抵押数比2018年的13774897股有所下降,但比2017年的11450723股明显上升。

投资者丹尼·摩西持有特斯拉股票的空头头寸,他认为马斯克增持的部分原因是现金短缺。据《洛杉矶时报》报道,2019年年初,马斯克抵押加州的5处房产,贷款了6100万美元。

根据特斯拉的股东委托书,董事会要求“质押股票担保最大贷款总额或投资金额不得超过质押股票总价值的25%”。如果股价走低,未偿贷款金额可能超过股票价值,也就是说马斯克需要更多股票才能符合要求。

特斯拉的一位发言人称,暗示增持是为了符合质押要求“明显不实”,并补充说马斯克增持只是为了表示对股票的信心。

不管所有交易背后原因是什么,如果投资者想搭上特斯拉这辆车,最好先仔细观察下。(财富中文网)

译者:Charlie

审校: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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