Tesla has won a vote of confidence from Chinese Internet giant and Naspers affiliate Tencent Holdings, whose purchase of a 5% stake boosts Elon Musk’s ambitions to get his mass-market Model 3 electric sedan to buyers this year.
Tencent paid about US$1,8bn for shares bought on the open market and from Tesla’s stock offering earlier this month, according to a regulatory filing.
The sale of equity and debt padded Tesla’s coffers as Musk spends heavily on introducing the lower-priced Model 3.
“Glad to have Tencent as an investor and advisor to Tesla,” Musk tweeted on Tuesday.
In buying the Tesla stake, Tencent, which is a third owned by South Africa’s Naspers, is adding to existing investments in technologies that are reshaping the car industry, including ride-hailing apps and the maps and artificial intelligence needed for driverless cars.
The owner of the WeChat messaging platform could also help Musk, 45, gain more of a foothold in China, the world’s largest car market. Tesla shares rose, approaching a record high.
“Having Tencent as a partner helps position Tesla to launch the Model 3 in China,” said Joseph Fath, a fund manager at T Rowe Price, Tesla’s fourth largest shareholder. “Tencent is one of the three superpowers in China along with Baidu and Alibaba, and they clearly have a lot of backing from the government.”
Tencent chairman Ma Huateng said earlier this month he envisions his company developing AI technology for driverless cars in the future.
The Shenzhen-based company is one of the biggest investors in Chinese ride-sharing giant Didi Chuxing and owns stakes in mapmakers NavInfo and Here, the German consortium owned by BMW, Audi and Daimler.
Tencent also is a backer of NextEV, the electric car start-up owned by Chinese Internet entrepreneur William Li. While Tencent has cooperated with companies it has invested in previously, there are no detailed plans for cooperation with Tesla at the moment, according to an e-mailed statement.
“Elon Musk is the archetype for entrepreneurship, combining vision, ambition and execution,” Tencent said in the e-mail. “Tesla is a global pioneer at the forefront of new technologies including electric vehicles, assisted driving, shared vehicles, digitising real-world information, sustainable energy generation and scaleable energy storage.”
Shares of Palo Alto, California-based Tesla rose 3,3% to $279,10 as of 2.28pm in New York, the highest intraday level in more than a month. The stock’s record closing price was $286,04 in September 2014.
Tesla’s revenue from China last year tripled to more than $1bn, indicating better traction in the market Musk has predicted could eventually become the company’s biggest.
“Tencent’s philosophy is to just invest in the best companies in the world,” David Chao, the co-founder of venture-capital firm DCM, said in a text message. Tesla and Tencent could create WeChat fan pages and communities to boost the company’s brand in China and integrate the app into Tesla cars, he said. “There are so many connections. It makes a lot of sense.”
While Tesla doesn’t release shipments by market, researcher JL Warren Capital says the company exported 1 356 vehicles to China during the first two months of 2017, nearly four times more than the year-earlier period.
“Very few” Model 3 orders have been placed in China so far because the company has yet to launch the car in China or Europe, Musk said on Twitter. — (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP