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Motor Mouth: Here's who can afford to take Tesla 'private'

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Well now that didn’t work out, did it?

Tuesday, Tesla’s embattled CEO, Elon Musk, tweeted out the latest in a long line of ill-advised, narcissistic missives, this time seemingly, at the drop of a hat, announcing that he was taking his company private. The most analyzed tweet since, well, let’s be honest, pretty much anything from @realDonaldTrump, the reason posited by pundits for Musk’s hubris has ranged from straightforward (he really does mean to take Tesla private) to the delusional (he was trying to take the public’s mind off his “pedo” tweet) to the downright egotistical (he was just trying to screw the company’s short sellers that he loathes so much).

As I implied in the lede, if those were Musk’s intentions, he has failed spectacularly. In the few days since the tweet-induced surge in TSLA stock on August, 7th, for instance, Tesla’s share price has pretty much returned to where they were before, all those fanboy analysts’ predictions of the shorts finally caving in proving, once more, to be nothing more than wishful thinking.

Worse yet, according to the Financial Times, the short sellers, once they got over their initial shock, have actually become emboldened, seeing the same sort of panic in Mr. Musk’s actions as George Soros saw in the British government before he pounced in the most famous short position — the British pound — in history. According to Mark Spiegel, managing member of Stanphyl Capital Partners, “There’s not enough stupid money to buy this company at an $80 billion valuation.” In other words, Mr. Musk had better take Tesla private now because the sharks are no longer just circling, they can actually taste the blood in the water.

As for any attempt to justify this as a light-hearted attempt to take people’s mind off his infamous “pedo” tweet — calling out a worldwide hero as a pedophile will cause even a ‘national treasure’ like Mr. Musk some concern — that pretty much evaporated with two words: “Funding secured.”

Now the American Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is involved. John C. Coffee Jr., a professor at Columbia Law School, tells the New York Times that if Mr. Musk isn’t as secure as his tweet indicates, “that’s potentially a very material misrepresentation, and a very straightforward violation of Rule 10b-5” of the securities law — in short, securities fraud.” Now securities law can be more confounding than most, but the substance of the issue would seem to be this; Mr. Musk might have got away with trying to jazz up his stock and/or lifting company spirits if he hadn’t claimed to already have a “secure” backer. One can always, ‘think’ about modifying one’s corporate structure. However, claiming one has the funding necessary already in place is claiming to a material fact and, lying about this kind of thing brings about the kind of SEC scrutiny that makes a prolonged rectal examination seem welcome by comparison.

If, however, Mr. Musk does have a moneybags backer, then the question then becomes “who can it be?” If one is to believe virtually every financial news outlet in the world, none of the notoriously leaky major hedge finds or investments banks has bought into Mr. Musk’s dream. If not the traditional sources of capital, who then? Though, this be admittedly complete conjecture, Motor Mouth will look at the few Tesla suitors that have been talked about since this latest downturn in the company’s financial fortunes started late last year.


Elon Musk during his presentation at the Tesla Powerpack Launch Event at Hornsdale Wind Farm on September 29, 2017 in Adelaide, Australia.

Mark Brake /

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Saudi Arabia

Much has been made in the last week of the coincidental investment by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund in TSLA stock. The country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) certainly has the funds. Though the number $80 billion, based on Mr. Musk’s wish of a US$420 per share buyout, has been bandied about, the number would more likely be less than that amount. Mr. Musk owns about a fifth of the outstanding stocks and has reiterated that he wants private investors to be able to continue with Tesla. As big as the number left would be, the PIF, with more than $250 billion in assets, could afford it.

The problem would be the optics of taking their monies. Saudi Arabia is literally the face of “Big Oil.” Now, factor in Saudi Arabia’s reputation as one of the most repressive regimes in the world and Mr. Musk and his investors/fanboys will have to do some serious ethical gymnastics to justify this one.

Apple

The idea of Apple buying Tesla is an old one. Nonetheless, with the company having just passed the US$1 trillion market cap mark, reportedly sitting on a quarter trillion in cash and, most importantly, is in the midst of developing automobile autonomy — most easily instituted, as most experts posit, with electric cars — the world’s most valuable company would seem to be an obvious suitor.

One big roadblock is that Doug Field has reportedly just returned to Apple. You might remember Mr. Field; He was Tesla’s former senior vice-president of engineering who was ousted last May when production of the Model 3 was being especially problematic. Mr. Musk famously took on his duties while continuing his CEO and head of marketing duties. According to the Financial Times, “His move to Apple will reignite speculation that the world’s most valuable company still harbours ambitions to design and build its own complete vehicles.” It might be safe to assume, then, that while Apple might have an interest in buying Tesla, Mr. Musk’s meglomania might not be as welcome. But, then, that might be his master plan. After all, 20 per cent of a US$420 billion buyout is one hell of a sayonara.

Norway’s Sovereign Fund

This one is my positing alone. But it makes a lot of sense. Norwegians absolutely love their Teslas. OK, they love their Tesla subsidies. But, whatever the case, Models Ss and Xs are very popular in the land of the midnight sun.

The sovereign fund also wants to diversify away from the oil money that is making the country so rich and also — yes, it’s a little hypocritical — use that fossil fuel to promote green initiatives. The fund is huge, soon to hit the US$1 trillion dollar mark, so it could buy Tesla from petty cash.

Admittedly, it’s a long shot, but, Musk has if nothing else, proven himself unafraid to take long shots. And methinks he might need one to get out of this latest mess.

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BC government to bring lower transgender surgery to the province

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VANCOUVER — Gwen Haworth says she always knew her gender identity, even when she was very young, but coming out about 18 years ago was a hard choice made even harder by a lack of services in her home province.

Between 2001 and 2004, Haworth said she went back and forth between Montreal and British Columbia to get gender-affirming surgery.

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The difficulties Haworth faced will soon be a thing of the past after the British Columbia government announced Friday it will provide reconstructive lower surgery for transgender people.

“Access to care was pretty fragmented, and very challenging, and hard and time consuming and costly,” said Howarth, a member of the trans community and project manager for Trans Care BC.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the trans community has advocated for a number of years for the complex surgery to be done in the province.

Up until now, those wanting the surgery had to travel to Montreal or the United States, which Dix said resulted in additional medical risks associated with travelling long distances after surgery and with follow-up care.

The Health Ministry says gender-affirming surgery will be available at Vancouver Coastal Health starting next year and trans people will also have improved access to publicly funded chest and breast surgeries in Burnaby, Kamloops, Kelowna, Port Moody, Prince George, Vancouver and Victoria.

Dix said B.C. is the first province in Western Canada to provide lower surgery.

The government says about 100 people travel out of the province for lower surgeries every year and about 200 chest and breast surgeries are expected to take place in B.C. in the coming year.

Haworth said improving access to care will have a ripple effect through society.

Gender affirming surgeries, where a person’s physical body is brought into alignment with how they identify, whether it’s male, female or non-binary, came with a stigma, she said, but Friday’s announcement fosters a welcoming environment.

“It improves people’s lives and health outcomes.”

During those three years when she needed care, Haworth said the costs came in many forms. Time was taken away from her family, friends, education and work. She said she had to pay for some services herself and getting reimbursed was a challenging process. Haworth said out-of-pocket expenses worth about $35,000 were never paid back.

She also had to sell her home.

“And when I look at the place I owned at that point in time, and I move 15 years forward in the Vancouver housing market, that means I actually had to say no to over a quarter million dollars of potential well-being at this point in my life.”

The Health Ministry says the surgeries will be covered as part of the province’s B.C. Surgical and Diagnostic Imaging Strategy, which is getting a $25 million funding increasing in 2019-20 to $100 million.

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BC becomes first western Canadian province to fund gender-affirming lower surgeries

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Starting in 2019 transgender people in British Columbia will have access to publicly funded gender-affirming lower surgeries within the province. With the change British Columbia will become the first province in western Canada to offer these procedures.

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“The trans community has advocated over a number of years for improved access to care, including access to complex lower surgeries within B.C.,” Minister of Health Adrian Dix said. “For those seeking lower surgery, people were required to travel to Montreal or to the U.S., resulting in additional medical risks associated with travelling long distance after surgery and in receiving followup care if there were complications.”


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The reconstructive surgeries will be available from Vancouver Coastal Health starting next year. The province has also expanded the access to gender-affirming chest and breast surgeries.

A total of 14 surgeons will provide chest and breast surgeries in Burnaby, Kamloops, Kelowna, Port Moody, Prince George, Vancouver and Victoria. Previously, people had to travel to Vancouver or Victoria.


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“We are proud to be the first province in western Canada to provide these surgeries,” Dix said.

“While B.C. funded these surgeries, they weren’t being delivered close to home and support systems, and that is what we are changing now. This is about bringing care closer to home and offering an enhanced, more efficient, cost-effective solution.”

The B.C. government said the number of people travelling out of province for lower surgeries has been steadily increasing each year with approximately 100 people going outside of British Columbia for care annually. The government is now forecasting that over 200 chest and breast surgeries are expected to take place throughout B.C. in the coming year.

WATCH HERE: Navigating the world of gender identities






“Having personally travelled out of province to access similar care, this is a significant step forward in improving the patient journey for British Columbians requiring these procedures,” trans educator Gwen Haworth said.

“Offering services closer to home reduces additional stress, uncertainties and expenses for individuals and their families. It’s reassuring to know that we will have improved access to experienced care providers throughout the entire process, within our home province.”

The expansion will be funded as part of the new B.C. Surgical and Diagnostic Imaging Strategy. The Ministry of Health has allocated $75 million in 2018-19 and $100 million in 2019-20.


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Around 1 per cent of the population, an estimated 46,000 people in B.C., identifies as trans, a term that describes a wide range of people whose gender differs from their assigned sex at birth.

Between 2014 and 2018, the number of gender-affirming chest and breast surgeries performed annually has more than tripled, from 56 to 178. During the same time period, the number of annual referrals for chest and breast surgeries has doubled, from 179 to 376.

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BC to offer gender-affirming surgeries for transgender people

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Transgender people in B.C. will have access to gender-affirming lower-body surgeries within their home province as early as 2019.

On Friday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the surgeries will be available in the Vancouver Coastal Health region next year.

Chest and breast surgeries, which have only been available in Vancouver and Victoria, will also be expanded to cities in the Lower Mainland, Kamloops, Kelowna and Prince George.

“For those seeking lower surgery, people were required to travel to Montreal or to the U.S., resulting in additional medical risks associated with travelling long distance after surgery and in receiving followup care if there were complications,” Dix said.

READ MORE: Health and safety are issues for trans youth: University of B.C. survey

READ MORE: X gender identity now recognized on B.C. IDs

In B.C., an estimated 46,000 people identify as trans or gender diverse. About 100 people travel outside of the province each year for lower-body surgeries – a number that has increased steadily.

In-province surgeries reduce barriers, says educator

Gwen Howarth was one of the hundreds of British Columbians forced to travel to undergo lower-body surgery, after coming out as transgender in 2000.

“At the time, access to care was more limited and required jumping through additional hoops. Navigating through this was challenging, costly and time-consuming,” Howarth, who works with Trans Care BC, said at Friday’s news conference.

“This impacted my ability to focus on other areas of my life, and put a strain on my relationship with my family and friends and loved ones who no doubt had to listen to my endless venting about barriers to health care.”

Howarth travelled to Montreal for surgery in 2004. She was able to afford flights and accommodations while recovering, but said many in B.C. are unable to meet the high costs and have to travel alone.

“As anyone knows who has been through a significant surgery, it can be nerve-wracking and a vulnerable time.”

Howarth said the government’s move is a major step to reducing cost barriers and the stigmas faced by the trans community.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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