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Musk sells another batch of Tesla shares despite vowing to stop

(Bloomberg) — Billionaire Elon Musk unloaded another batch of Tesla Inc. stock to help fund his buyout of Twitter Inc., bringing his sales of the electric carmaker’s stock to about $36 billion over the past year.

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Musk disposed of 19.5 million shares worth $3.95 billion in the latest transactions, according to regulatory filings late Tuesday in New York. The documents did not indicate that the sale – his first since August – was pre-planned.

The registrations come despite assurances from Tesla’s CEO and largest single shareholder that he had finished offloading the stock. Musk claimed in April that no further transactions were planned, then again in August, saying it was important to avoid an “emergency sale”[ads1]; in case he had to close the Twitter acquisition and was struggling to bring in more equity partners.

Tesla shares fell less than 1% at 9:36 a.m. Wednesday in New York. The stock fell 46% this year through Tuesday’s close, and has lost $600 billion in market value since its peak last November.

Read more: Tesla’s value cut in half a year due to sale of Musk Stake

The world’s richest person followed through with his takeover of the social media platform in October, after spending months trying to get out of it. It’s not entirely clear how the $44 billion deal was ultimately financed, beyond the roughly $13 billion in debt obligations from Wall Street banks.

Several high-profile individuals pledged to invest around $7 billion, although it is not known if all kept their promises. And Musk has never said publicly how he planned to raise his share of the cash needed to close the deal.

But one thing is clear: Twitter is losing money and now faces annual interest payments of nearly $1.2 billion. Since Musk took over, several major companies have halted their ads on the platform, while they wait to see how it develops under the billionaire’s leadership.

“It looks like Musk is preparing for things to stay bad at Twitter for the next year,” Gene Munster of Loup Ventures said after the stock sale became public. “He’s preparing for Twitter to become a money pit.”

Musk, 51, and his financial right-hand man, Jared Birchall, did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

The billionaire’s drastic cost-cutting moves – including firing half the staff and later asking some to return – and overhauling the platform’s operations have resulted in a tumultuous two weeks at the social media company, with some employees unsure whether they still employed there or not.

The deal has also sparked concern among some Tesla shareholders that the CEO is spreading himself too thin and will have to get rid of even more of his stock. He still owns about 14%, according to Bloomberg data.

Of the $36 billion worth of shares Musk has sold, about half have come since he announced the Twitter purchase plan, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Tesla’s stock decline has pulled Musk’s fortune down to $179.5 billion from a peak of $340 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

–With assistance from Dana Hull, Ed Ludlow, Tom Maloney, Esha Dey and Craig Trudell.

(Updates with share trading in the fourth paragraph)

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