August 14, 2018 / 8:14 PM / a month ago

Major Tesla shareholders trimmed stakes last quarter: filings

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two major Tesla Inc shareholders cut their stakes in the electric automaker during the second quarter, before Chief Executive Elon Musk announced he would try to take the company private earlier this month.

A worker is seen outside the Tesla Inc. Gigafactory 2, which is also known as RiverBend, a joint venture with Panasonic to produce solar panels and roof tiles in Buffalo, New York, U.S., August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/ File Photo

T. Rowe Price Group Inc funds, once the No. 2 Tesla shareholder after Musk, cut their holdings by nearly a quarter to 11.9 million shares in the three months ended June 30, according to a filing on Tuesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The disclosure comes days after Fidelity Investments, another top-10 shareholder, said in an earlier filing it cut its Tesla stake by 21 percent during the quarter.

Musk faces investor lawsuits claiming fraud and a probe by the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission after sending a tweet on August 7 that there was “funding secured” to take Tesla private. No investors have confirmed their involvement.

Tesla’s board named a special committee on Tuesday to evaluate any plans to go private but said it had not seen a firm offer.

It was not clear why T. Rowe Price and Fidelity reduced their Tesla holdings or whether they support a move by the company to go private. During the second quarter, investors were focused on the company’s efforts to turn out new Model 3 sedans without burning cash at a faster pace.

(GRAPHIC-Two leading Tesla shareholders slash holdings in Q2: reut.rs/2Pa1DtN)

In addition to stock, Fidelity and T. Rowe Price retained a type of bond issued by Tesla that can convert to stock under certain conditions, their filings showed. On Tuesday billionaire investor George Soros disclosed his firm also retained a stake in Tesla convertible notes during the quarter.

Representatives for Tesla and Soros did not respond to inquiries from Reuters. Fidelity and T. Rowe Price declined to comment.

CFRA analyst Efraim Levy said there could be many reasons why the funds trimmed their positions. Some also may not be allowed to hold the company’s stock if it goes private.

“A lot of these mutual funds, who are the large shareholders, they can’t necessarily buy and hold private company’s stock,” he said.

Not all investors cut back on Tesla holdings. Jennison Associates LLC, for instance, increased its holdings by a third to 4.3 million shares, a filing showed. Jennison owner Prudential Financial Inc did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fund managers disclose their holdings quarterly in “13F” filings with the SEC. But the disclosures come 45 days after the end of each quarter and may not reflect current positions or their full portfolios.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; additional reporting by Alexandria Sage; graphic by Noel Randewich; editing by Jennifer Ablan and Dan Grebler

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