Angel investor and entrepreneur Jason Calacanis believes Apple will purchase Tesla for the eye-popping sum of $75 billion within the next 18 months.
Calacanis admits he does not have access to valuable inside information from Tesla or Apple, nor does he own shares from any of the companies. In fact, the closest thing he gets to both is the two Teslas he purchased from the electric car company and the $3,000 worth of Apple products he buys every year. Still, Calacanis believes Apple is going after Elon Musk's brainchild, and he cites several reasons why.
The prediction comes just after reports by The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and The Financial Times separately confirm that Apple is working on a secret car development project codenamed Titan. Additionally, sightings of driverless minivans owned by Apple being tested on the streets of Concord in the Bay Area have been reported.
Calacanis believes Apple will make its move just before the low-cost Model 3 sedan, which Musk said will cost $35,000 without tax incentives, is shipped to market because after the Model 3 targeted for the mainstream consumer becomes available, Tesla's soaring market capitalization will make any deal with Apple a merger instead of an acquisition. Right now, Tesla has a market cap of $25.55 billion, an insignificant fragment of Apple's own $740 billion market cap.
Given Tim Cook's "obsession" with renewable energy, Calacanis says it only makes sense that Apple is interested in buying Tesla. He also believes Tesla's plan to take its five-inch thick batteries out of the Model S and into people's garages to provide cheap electricity could further convince Apple to lay the $75 billion for Tesla. And given Apple's reputation for introducing revolutionary new products in every market it enters, notwithstanding its lack of experience - think music, smartphones, and retail, Calacanis says Apple is the only company Musk will not be able to turn down.
"Google is another likely buyer, but Google can't compete with Apple's war chest," Calacanis says. "No one else in the world could actually make a run at Tesla because they either don't have the cash and, most importantly, they don't have the ability to give assurances to Elon that they won't f@#$ it up. Apple's design team, software, and global distribution would actually LEVEL Tesla up."
Experts predict the driverless car industry will boom in seven to 10 years, with test vehicles coming out to public roads in as soon as three years. Calacanis says Tesla and Apple's combined expertise could have an entire line of self-driving cars ready just in time for the driverless revolution.
Bloomberg's Betty Liu got in touch with Musk to interview him about Calacanis' prediction. Liu says Musk did not categorically say that he was never going to sell Tesla, but he said any acquisition is "very unlikely." Still, Liu thinks Musk, despite his lofty goals of making electric cars as common as toilet paper and bringing humankind to Mars, has a price.
"He's never closed the door on a possible acquisition," says [video] Liu. "You have to think that, at some point, there is some sort of exit strategy here for Elon Musk. The more his company develops, the close he gets to those goals, the more attractive Tesla Motors becomes, there must be some price and some package where Elon Musk must say, 'You know what, it's a good idea for me to sell the company.'"
But Ashlee Vance, Bloomberg columnist and author of an upcoming biography of Musk, doesn't think the Tesla chief will sell.
"To me, he's not very driven by money. He's got plenty of other things going on with all those businesses," says Vance. "To him, it's sort of like his life goals to see electric cars become mainstream. And he's talked about making electric jets next and he has all this technology to get to Mars and it is all part of this bigger vision that he has."
Apple is not entirely known for major acquisitions, with its most surprising buy being the $3 billion Beats Electronics. However, rumors of a possible buyout of Tesla first began swirling last year when The Chronicle reported that Musk set off to Cupertino to meet with Apple's head of mergers and acquisitions Adrian Perica, setting off speculations that acquisition talks were in the air.