August 16, 2018 / 9:22 PM / a month ago

First crack at Musk could give top Tesla funds an edge

BOSTON (Reuters) - Information about Elon Musk’s efforts to take Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) private is scarce. But some small investors wonder if top funds have an edge.

FILE PHOTO: Tesla Motors Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk pauses during a news conference in Tokyo September 8, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

In a blog post on Monday bit.ly/2Oy3vLE, the Tesla chief executive said he would sound out some of his largest shareholders on the idea. The list could include T. Rowe Price Group Inc (TROW.O) and Fidelity Investments, which each have had a good run with the stock.

Some stockholders worry the meetings could yield details not available to smaller investors, a tension that is emerging more often as big funds own larger stakes in companies and stress their frequent talks with U.S. corporations.

Some small investors say they do not expect a level informational playing field when it comes to Tesla, whose shares have been whipsawed by Musk’s unpredictable tweets.

Adam Grossman, principal of Mayport Wealth Management in Newton, Massachusetts said he has avoided owning Tesla for clients except through indexes, partly to limit the risk of missing out on color Musk could share with a small circle.

“If you’re a big portfolio manager and able to sit in a room with Elon Musk, you’ll pick up information” not available to others, Grossman said in an interview on Thursday.

Practically, small investors are going to be left out of the loop by Musk’s outreach, said Brendan Ahern, chief investment officer of investment manager KraneShares, with an estimated several thousand Tesla shares.

Big funds speaking with Musk “are going to be getting the proverbial keys to the kingdom, and others are on the outside,” Ahern said.

A Tesla spokesman did not comment for this article.

Musk said in his blog he needed to be forthcoming with top shareholders about his plans to take Tesla private at $420 per share. “However, it wouldn’t be right to share information about going private with just our largest investors without sharing the same information with all investors at the same time,” he wrote, leading to his public announcement of his intentions.

A plan would also need regulatory and shareholder approval, Musk wrote.

Harvard Law School professor John Coates said U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules on fair disclosure allow the selective sharing of some details if recipients agree not to trade until what they are told becomes public. But it is hard to know how those limits might play out for Musk’s outreach.

“With Tesla however nothing normal is normal. So who knows,” Coates said via email.

This month is not the first time Musk has lifted the curtain on his talks with top holders. In June 2016 Musk mentioned talking with institutions about combining Tesla and SolarCity Corp, [SCTY.N] a deal that came together later that year. reut.rs/2nGAFgN

Representatives for Fidelity and T. Rowe Price declined to comment. Neither firm has shared its thinking about Musk’s take-private idea or said much to explain their second-quarter share sales. Collectively T Rowe funds cut their Tesla stakes by 24 percent to 11.9 million shares at June 30, while Fidelity funds cut their stakes 21 percent to 11.2 million at the same point, filings show.

Unlike index funds that would likely have to sell a privatized Tesla, both big firms run funds with big stakes in closely held companies.

To be sure, not all of Tesla’s smaller investors are concerned about Musk sharing details selectively. Louis Albanese, managing partner of Catamount Wealth Management, with about 8,000 Tesla shares, said the key is that all shareholders eventually receive the same buyout offer, as he expects.

“It’s not like these guys are going to get $420 (per share), and everybody else gets $350,” Albanese said.

Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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