Singapore-based billionaire Tesla investor calls for US$15b stock buy-back after shares sink

Last year, Mr Leo KoGuan claimed in a tweet that he was the third-largest individual shareholder of Tesla. PHOTO: ST FILE

SAN FRANCISCO (REUTERS) - Mr Leo KoGuan, a Singapore-based major individual investor in Tesla, on Thursday (May 19) called on the electric carmaker to announce a US$15 billion (S$20.7 billion) stock buy-back after Tesla shares took a hit from chief executive Elon Musk's deal to buy Twitter.

The comments came as high-profile Tesla bull Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush, on Thursday cut the target share price of Tesla due to China production disruption, and warned of "distraction risks" from Mr Musk's Twitter deal.

Tesla shares have lost one-third of their value since Mr Musk disclosed his stake in Twitter in early April and sold US$8.5 billion worth of Tesla stocks in a move seen to help finance his US$44 billion Twitter deal.

Further hurting stocks are China's Covid-19 lockdown measures, which dampened Tesla's production, and an exclusion of Tesla from a widely followed S&P sustainability index.

"Tesla must announce immediately and buy back US$5 billion of Tesla shares from its free cash flow this year and US$10 billion from its free cash flow next year, without effecting its existing US$18 billion cash reserves with zero debt," Mr Leo said in a Twitter message to Tesla head of investor relations Martin Viecha.

Mr Viecha was not immediately available for comment.

Last year, Mr Leo claimed in a tweet that he was the third-largest individual shareholder of Tesla, after Mr Musk and former Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison. Mr Viecha at the time said he "confirmed" the claims.

Mr Leo previously said he was investing billions in Tesla because he believes in Mr Musk's "great vision". He said in March that he was buying more Tesla shares, not selling, during the stocks' dip.

Tesla bull Gary Black, portfolio manager at The Future Fund, told Reuters: "If he (Musk) could get out (of the Twitter deal), Tesla's stock would go up 10 per cent."

Indonesia-born Mr Leo had a net worth of US$9.5 billion, according to Forbes last year. He made his fortune by founding SHI International in the United States, an information technology provider that has more than 20,000 customers including Boeing and AT&T. The company began as a software reseller in 1989, for which Mr Leo and his then wife Thai Lee paid less than US$1 million, Forbes reported.

• With additional information from The Straits Times

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.