Elon Musk hosted a question-and-answer session Tuesday to talk up the merits of Tesla's (TSLA) pending $2.6 billion acquisition of SolarCity SCTY. But in talking up SolarCity as a business, the call could have actually created as many doubts about the deal on one side as it did to relieve skepticism from the other.
The Tesla/SolarCity combination has been the target of scrutiny from the day it was announced, as critics have accused Musk of using one company in which he holds a large stake to bail out another. Musk is CEO of Tesla and chairman of SolarCity and a major shareholder in each, with his cousin Lyndon Rive serving as CEO at the solar panel installation firm.
SolarCity is losing money, burdened with more than $3.4 billion in debt, and seems to be losing access to credit markets. In late August, after the takeover agreement was announced, SolaCity sold $100 million worth of a $124 million bond offering to Musk and other insiders at a rich 6.5% rate, an indication that demand for the offering from the general public was tepid at best.
Given the issues with SolarCity's business, and the lack of any abundant near-term synergies between a solar panel company and an automaker, Tesla investors have been asking if SolarCity is worth the potential balance sheet stress and management distraction. Tesla has an ambitious agenda of its own even without M&A, including moving its more affordable Model 3 sedan to production next year, and according to Oppenheimer estimates could need to raise upward of $12.5 billion by the end of 2018 to fund both SolarCity and Tesla's plans.