Source Expects Tesla IPO Filing "Any Day," Tesla Calls it Rumor

Electric car startup Tesla Motors plans to file for a public offering very soon, two anonymous sources tell Reuters — “any day,” according to one source. When we contacted Tesla for confirmation, the company supplied a statement from spokesperson Ricardo Reyes saying, “We do not comment on rumors or speculation.”

But Tesla CEO and Chairman Elon Musk has long discussed plans to take the company public. And whether that process begins in a matter of days, or further down the road, the startup’s filing would be a major event — not just because the last public offering of a U.S. automaker was Ford, as Reuters points out, more than half a century ago. It would also provide the first public glimpse of the financials for a company set to receive $465 million in direct loans from Uncle Sam.

Of course filing for an IPO is just one step toward actually going public. Just ask A123Systems. It took more than a year for the battery maker to finally take the leap after its initial filing with the SEC last August, shortly before stock markets began to plummet.

Back in February of last year, Tesla told the Financial Times that it expected to go public in 2009. A few months later, in May, Musk estimated that Tesla would raise some $100 million in an IPO by the end of 2008.

Both of those statements came out before the stock markets took a nose dive and the appetite for IPOs dried up, and also before Tesla received the long awaited loan approval from the feds.

Tesla announced in May of this year that German automaker Daimler had taken a roughly 10 percent stake (part of which was later sold to Abu Dhabi-based Aabar Investments) for roughly $50 million. Tesla also closed an $82.5 million round of private equity financing in September.

For the first time in its six-year history, Tesla claimed this summer that it had achieved “overall corporate profitability” during the month of July, with $1 million in earnings on $20 million in revenue (including “a small percentage,” spokesperson Rachel Konrad told us, from sales of battery pack technology to Daimler). Konrad told us however, that “It’s definitely conceivable that we would not be in the black every month going forward, as expenditures ramp up” for the DOE-backed Model S sedan project.

When Musk spoke of the more aggressive timeline last year, he named two steps that would come before an IPO: raising another round of financing, and crossing over into profitability. Done and (at least once) done.

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