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Elon Musk dreams big dreams. Tesla Inc. taps Wall Street for money to turn them into reality. Banks pocket millions in fees. And rather than punish the company for diluting its shareholders, the market applauds.

The virtuous circle has enabled Tesla to raise about $14 billion over the last decade, supporting the electric-car maker through countless ups and downs. News of the latest offering -- which priced at $767 a share, according to a regulatory filing -- increased Tesla's market capitalization to almost $146 billion, behind only Toyota Motor Corp. among the world's most valuable auto manufacturers.

While Tesla watchers have seen this movie before, the latest script was full of twists and turns. Musk, 48, said during an earnings call more than two weeks ago that it didn't make sense for the company to raise capital again. The maker of the Model 3 sedan has been spending money sensibly, he said, without holding back expenditures that would inhibit progress.

But the ascent Tesla's stock has been on in recent months evidently changed the chief executive officer's mind. Tesla will use the $2 billion proceeds from the offering to shore up its balance sheet and help finance Musk's seemingly endless aspirations.

After Musk and Chief Financial Officer Zach Kirkhorn demurred weeks ago when asked how much spending Tesla had planned for this year, the company disclosed Thursday that its budget will be as much as $3.5 billion, more than double last year's.

Chinese banks are footing much of the bill for the factory Musk just opened near Shanghai, but he's also already planning to build his next one near Berlin and teasing the possibility of another one going up in Texas.

Tesla is no longer a tiny niche player that makes cool-but-expensive cars only in high-cost California, but getting to this point required taking on about $12.5 billion of debt, double the amount of cash and equivalents it had at year's end.

"Musk had previously assured investors that he did not plan to raise additional capital," Gene Munster, managing partner of Loup Ventures, said in a report. "However, while Elon backpedaling on his promises is a common criticism of Tesla, the company's balance sheet is a much more common (and valid) criticism."

The stock has more than tripled since the company released the first of two positive quarterly earnings reports. Musk has accelerated the production schedule for the Model Y, the crossover SUV that he sees becoming the company's new top seller.

With all that Musk has planned -- eventually rolling out the Semi, Roadster and Cybertruck models and recommitting to a foundering rooftop-solar business -- some investors and analysts think the company should try to raise enough money so that it's really done needing to seek more from now on.

While the amount the company has taken in during the last decade is significant, it's not unprecedented. Netflix Inc. raised about $15 billion in the same span, almost entirely from debt offerings, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

"We have long wanted Tesla to raise a large amount of cash via stock issuance due to its lofty valuation and then perhaps never need to raise capital again," David Whiston, a Morningstar Inc. analyst, said in a note. "We'd like to see more consistency between the company's actions and the words of CEO Elon Musk."

Information for this article was contributed by Brandon Kochkodin and Drew Singer of Bloomberg News.

SundayMonday Business on 02/16/2020

Print Headline: Tesla cash raise keeps virtuous circle rolling

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