Tesla’s plan to make bond payment in March emerges


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SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK — Tesla Inc. has notified holders of bonds due in March that if they elect to convert the debt, they’ll be paid with a 50-50 mix of cash and stock, according to a copy of the settlement notice seen by Bloomberg News.

The notice, dated Nov. 30, relates to the $920 million convertible bond due at the beginning of March. The equity-conversion price is $359.88 per share, a level Tesla’s stock closed above on Thursday for the first time since Aug. 8.

The decision to use both cash and equity to pay off the debt may be a show of confidence by the Elon Musk-led company that it’s going to be sustainably profitable going forward. The electric-car maker reported $881 million in positive free cash flow for the third quarter, a major turnabout following the costly and tumultuous period in which it was starting Model 3 sedan production.

“This would be a clear sign that, if there was a meaningful amount paid in cash, then they feel they can consistently produce cash flow and profit,” BI’s Joel Levington said in an interview. “Maybe there’s some credence to what consensus is throwing out and what they said on the last earnings call.”

Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tesla posted its largest ever profit in the third quarter and appears to have put much of the drama of the Model 3 production ramp behind it. In the three months ended Sept. 30, the company reported having about $3 billion in cash, more than sufficient to cover the planned $460 million to settle half of the bond principal.

The electric-car maker is expected to generate $360 million in free cash flow in the fourth quarter and about $110 million in the first three months of 2019, according to analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

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