By Hyunjoo Jin
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) -Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk has exercised all of his options expiring next year, signaling an end to his stock sales which triggered a fall in the share price of the world’s most valuable carmaker.
He has sold $16.4 billion worth of shares since early November when he said he would sell 10% of his Tesla stock if Twitter users agreed. They did.
Musk said last week that he would be done selling shares after his programmed sales ended.
Musk in September set up a prearranged plan for stock sales related to options expiring next year and Tesla in a filing on Tuesday said the program was complete.
The last trades, reported on Tuesday, included exercising an option on 1.6 million shares and selling 934,090 of those shares to pay for taxes.
In total, Musk has sold 15.7 million shares in Tesla late in this year, approximately the 10% stake the billionaire had pledged to sell.
Tesla shares lost about a quarter of their value after Musk in November asked his Twitter followers if he should sell 10% of his holdings. They rebounded last week when he said he was almost done with stock sales, although the shares are still below the record closing high of $1,229.91 in November.
Tesla shares were trading down 1.1% to $1,077.03 each on Wednesday.
Two days before Musk’s Twitter poll, Tesla shares hit a record high, extending gains sparked by an order for Tesla cars from rental company Hertz.
In 2012, Musk was granted the stock options that vested when Tesla achieved specific milestones on market capitalization and other goals. He did not have to pay taxes on the vested options until he exercised most of them since November.
He exercised options to buy nearly 23 million shares at $6.24 each, a fraction of Tesla’s share price.
Democrats, who control Congress, have proposed a surtax on income taxes and capital gains taxes that may take effect next year.
“Exercising the options in 2021 would avoid the increased taxes next year,” Steve Rosenthal, a senior fellow in the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, said.
Tesla did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Musk, the world’s richest person with a net worth of $276 billion according to Forbes, said he would pay more than $11 billion in taxes this year.
Musk has moved from California to Texas, where there is no state income tax.
He initially said his sale of 10% of his stock was in response to criticism that wealthy people avoid taxes.
He recently suggested that he needed to sell some of the stocks regardless of the Twitter poll, to pay taxes associated with his options exercise.
“I have some Tesla options that are expiring next year so I needed to exercise those options no matter what,” he said in an interview with conservative satirical website Babylon Bee.
He added that he sold additional stocks to “try to get up to the 10% level.”
(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Stephen Coates, Peter Henderson and Howard Goller)