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Tesla Loses Key Shareholder as Panasonic Sells Stake for $3.6B

Tesla loses electronics giant Panasonic, one of its key battery-making partners, as a key shareholder.

Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Report has lost electronics giant Panasonic, one of its key battery-making partners, as a key shareholder.

Panasonic confirmed Friday that it sold its stake in electric car company Tesla for about $3.61 billion in March amid a broader push by Panasonic to reduce its dependence on Tesla as a battery and electronic buyer and raise cash for investments.

The stake sale will not affect the partnership with Tesla, a Panasonic spokesperson told Bloomberg, and was made as part of a review of shareholdings in line with corporate governance guidelines.

Panasonic bought 1.4 million Tesla shares at $21.15 each back in 2010 for about $30 million. That stake was worth $730 million at the end of March 2020. The shares have gained almost seven-fold since then. 

The share sale comes as Tesla focuses its efforts on diversifying its own battery supply chain. Tesla has struck deals with South Korea's LG Energy Solution, a unit of LG Chem, and China's CATL, with Reuters reporting the latter is planning a plant in Shanghai near Tesla’s Gigafactory.

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Panasonic's battery business is still dominated by Elon Musk's Tesla, but the two firms have had a tense relationship at times with executives trading barbs publicly.

In the meantime, Tesla is looking at a growing pack of competitors looming bigger in its rear-view mirror, particularly with President Joe Biden's $1 trillion infrastructure plan expected to speed up mass-adaptation of electric vehicles in the U.S., which are already expected to overtake gasoline-powered cars sooner than expected

Legacy carmakers including Ford  (F) - Get Report and General Motors  (GM) - Get Report as well EV competitors including Fisker  (FSR) - Get Report and NIO  (NIO) - Get Report are riding the wave of strong consumer demand for EVs that extend beyond Tesla's S,E,3 and Y lineup, including GM’s battery-powered Hummer truck and Silverado pickup, and Ford’s F-150 Lightning pickup.

Japan automaker Honda on Wednesday joined the growing list of car companies going all-electric, saying it will look to completely phase out sales of gasoline-powered cars by 2040. 

Shares of Tesla ended the trading day Thursday up 3.5% at $679.82. At last check, Tesla was up 0.81% at $681.32. Panasonic's shares closed up 4.9% on Friday.