Tesla's earnings call on Monday revealed that the company had sold off 10% of its Bitcoin holdings for $272 million in proceeds and $101 million in profit. This led to confusion and even a sense of betrayal among some, especially crypto-Twitter. But why did Tesla actually sell any Bitcoin?
Tesla's interest in Bitcoin in the first place seems to have been found while looking for an asset that can generate returns while remaining liquid.
"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," said the company in the SEC filing that revealed Tesla had purchased Bitcoin.
So why did Tesla sell?
Some names on crypto social media felt betrayed by the company and the recently self-proclaimed'Techno King,' Elon Musk.
Dave Portnoy, the founder of Barstool Sports who frequently has live streams of himself trading, said that Tesla and Musk played some sort of pump and dump on the market.
"So am I understanding this correctly?@elonmusk buys #bitcoin. Then he pumps it. It goes up. Then he dumps it and makes a fortune. Listen I own 1 #Bitcoin but #bitcoin is exactly who we thought it was. Just don’t be last 1 #HODLing the bag."
Musk quickly put the situation into perspective for Portnoy when he responded, saying, "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 the balance sheet."
As the company's original SEC filing suggests, and as Musk backs up in his response to Portnoy, it seems the company sold some Bitcoin to test its theory that Bitcoin is an investable asset that can generate returns but also remain liquid.
Another big name in the crypto-Twitter space is Documenting Bitcoin. Documenting Bitcoin said, "Tesla stress tested bitcoin. Did it pass, @elonmusk?"
Musk simply replied, "Yes."
The company's Q1 2021 earnings report said its sale of Bitcoin had a positive impact on the company's gross margin.
"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."
So, Tesla's intentions behind its sale of Bitcoin seem to have been as a method to prove its use-case as a liquid and value-generating asset. The company still holds just shy of $2.5 billion worth of the cryptocurrency today.
As Musk mentioned in late March on his Twitter, Telsa still accepts Bitcoin for its cars, and Bitcoin used will be kept as Bitcoin and not converted to dollars.
"Tesla is using only internal & open source software & operates Bitcoin nodes directly. Bitcoin paid to Tesla will be retained as Bitcoin, not converted to fiat currency."
While Tesla did sell some Bitcoin, its commitment to the crypto seems clear and ongoing.
“We do believe long-term in the value of Bitcoin. It is our intent to hold what we have long-term and continue to accumulate Bitcoin from transactions from our customers as they purchase vehicles," said Tesla's CFO Zachary Kirkhorn during Tesla's earnings call.
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