Daimler AG, maker of Mercedes Benz, has decided to cash in on its Tesla shares. The move will book the Stuttgart, Germany-based auto maker a windfall of $780 million after selling its 3.9 percent shares in the electric car company.
In a statement, Daimler chief financial officer Bodo Uebber says selling of its Tesla shares will not affect the company's partnership with the Palo Alto, California-based car maker, which Uebber describes as "very successful and will be continued."
"We are extremely satisfied with the development of our investment in Tesla, but it is not necessary for our partnership and cooperation," says Uebber. "For this reason, we have decided to divest of our shares."
Some analysts surmise that Daimler has decided to sell off its Tesla shares because being an investor is no longer required to acquire Tesla's electric car and battery making technologies since Tesla CEO Elon Musk decided to make all of his company's patents available to the public "in good faith."
"They got a pretty good return on it," says analyst Richard Hilgert at Morningstar. "They really don't need to be an owner to acquire any technology from the company since Elon Musk made the technology public for anybody to use."
Daimler, along with Japanese car maker Toyota, was one of the high-profile investors and clients that saved Tesla in 2009, when Tesla was banking on nothing but its two-seater, electric sports car Roadster. The company invested a 9.1 percent stake amounting to $50 million at the time but later transferred nearly half of that to Aabar Investments PJSC in Abu Dhabi. Due to capital increases, Daimler's shares decreased to 3.9 percent.
Since Tesla's initial public offering in 2010, Tesla shares have skyrocketed by more than 1,000 percent, ultimately giving the company a market capitalization of $29 billion. However, shares have been on the decline since September, with the figures dropping 19 percent since then, prompting some analysts to wonder if demand for Tesla's $70,000 Model S sedan has reached its peak.
The divestment also comes after Daimler executives announced earlier this year that the company plans to make Germany a center for lithium-ion vehicle battery production in Europe. Daimler is a key member of the Deutsche ACCUmotive venture, which owns a lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Kamenz, Germany. Uebber says the partnership with Tesla "optimally complements our involvement in Deutsche ACCUmotive." Harold Kroeger, Daimler's representative to Tesla's board of directors, also left earlier.
Still, Daimler will continue to purchase its batteries for the Mercedes Benz B-Class electric car from Tesla. The car, which is already available in the United States for $41,000, will begin selling in Europe next month. However, Daimler did not say if it will continue to purchase Tesla-made batteries for its future electric models.