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Elon Musk Confirms He Is a Bitcoiner and Explains Why Tesla Sold 10% of Its Bitcoin | Cryptoglobe

source-logo  cryptoglobe.com 27 April 2021 02:30, UTC

After Tesla reported its Q1 2021 Financial Results yesterday (April 26), many in the crypto community were shocked to hear Tesla had sold 10% of its recently acquired Bitcoin. Later, the Tesla CFO and the Tesla CEO made some clarifying remarks.

On February 8, the world discovered from Tesla’s latest annual report (Form 10-K), which had been filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), that the electric car maker had invested $1.5 billion in Bitcoin.

The relevant section of the annual report read:

We hold and may acquire digital assets that may be subject to volatile market prices, impairment and unique risks of loss.

In January 2021, we updated our investment policy to provide us with more flexibility to further diversify and maximize returns on our cash that is not required to maintain adequate operating liquidity. As part of the policy, which was duly approved by the Audit Committee of our Board of Directors, we may invest a portion of such cash in certain alternative reserve assets including digital assets, gold bullion, gold exchange-traded funds and other assets as specified in the future.

Thereafter, we invested an aggregate $1.50 billion in bitcoin under this policy and may acquire and hold digital assets from time to time or long-term. Moreover, we expect to begin accepting bitcoin as a form of payment for our products in the near future, subject to applicable laws and initially on a limited basis, which we may or may not liquidate upon receipt.

Well, yesterday, Tesla reported its Q1 2021 results, and in the Shareholder Deck released by Tesla yesterday, the company had this to say about Bitcoin:

Year over year, positive impacts from volume growth, regulatory credit revenue growth, gross margin improvement driven by further product cost reductions and sale of Bitcoin ($101M positive impact, net of related impairments, in “Restructuring & Other” line) were mainly offset by a lower ASP, increased SBC, additional supply chain costs, R&D investments and other items. Model S and Model X changeover costs negatively impacted both gross profit as well as R&D expenses.

Quarter-end cash and cash equivalents decreased to $17.1B in Q1, driven mainly by a net cash outflow of $1.2B in cryptocurrency (Bitcoin) purchases, net debt and finance lease repayments of $1.2B, partially offset by free cash flow of $293M.

And in the “State of Cash Flows” section of the “Financial Statements”, you can see that that Tesla received $272 million as the result of of selling parts of its Bitcoin holdings.

Source: Q1 2021 Shareholder Deck

Many people in the crypto community were naturally shocked and disappointed to find out that Tesla had sold 10% of its BTC holdings in Q1 2021 (the period that end on 31 March 2021), i.e. after just a few weeks.

Here is one example:

Damn am I the only one that thinks that selling a portion of the Bitcoin position only a few months later is not good news? Everyone woke that that locking in profits is a prudent move but who are we kidding

— Larry Cermak (@lawmaster) April 26, 2021

I mean it's obvious that Tesla likely had a risk management mandate for taking profits or losses if BTC moved by X%. Also helps that they needed profits to prop their results. But the example was MicroStartegy and Square who have both held for a while and haven't sold

— Larry Cermak (@lawmaster) April 26, 2021

Dave Portnoy, the founder and president of Barstool Sports, who yesterday claimed that he had once again become a Bitcoiner, criticized Tesla and Musk for conducting a “pump and dump” operation, but Musk corrected him, saying that he has not sold any of his own Bitcoin holdings and explained why Tesla had sold a small part of its Bitcoin holdings:

No, you do not. I have not sold any of my Bitcoin. Tesla sold 10% of its holdings essentially to prove liquidity of Bitcoin as an alternative to holding cash on balance sheet.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 26, 2021

Interestingly, just a few minutes before Musk’s reply to Portnoy, Meltem Demirors, Chief Strategy Officer at CoinShares, had said:

the fact that Tesla could liquidate $270M of bitcoin so quickly and so easily indicates bitcoin market structure and depth is very robust

corporate treasurers can tick off "sufficient liquidity" when looking at bitcoin to effectively diversify treasury holdings

— Meltem Demir◎rs (@Melt_Dem) April 26, 2021

Tesla CFO Zachary Kirkhorn also talked about Bitcoin during the company’s Q1 2021 earnings call:

Bitcoin seemed and so far proved to be good decision to store cash that wasn’t immediately used for daily operations and get some good return on that. There is a lot of reasons to be optimistic here and we are certainly watching closely here.

We have been quite pleased with how much liquidity there is in Bitcoin market. When we did the sale in later March, we also executed quickly. Being able to get cash out is exceptionally important.

We do believe long term in value of Bitcoin and will continue to accumulate Bitcoin from customers paying for cars.

It is clear that Tesla needed to make its Q1 2021 earnings look better, and selling 10% of its BTC holdings was an easy way of doing that. However, as Nic Carter, a Co-Founder of Coin Metrics, points out, corporate treasurers sometimes need to rebalance their investment portfolios.

many of those same allocators have target bands. this means that once they have a position, they will aim to keep its share of their portfolio relatively fixed. so if BTC rallies, they take profits, and if BTC sells off, they buy. this is countercyclical & suppresses volatility.

— nic carter (@nic__carter) April 13, 2021

Carter went on to say:

  • so if you combine tendency 1 (volatility targeting) with tendency 2 (rebalancing) you get a suppressive effect on volatility as instits become a greater share of the market. less volatility begets larger allocations, which begets less vol, etc… we call that re•flex•iv•ity
  • tldr, as these sorts of allocators become the marginal buyers (some evidence this is the case already) Bitcoin could well be entering a new more boring regime of lower vol and fewer face ripping rallies, and fewer gut wrenching selloffs. “this time different”? let’s watch.