At the end of March, Panasonic sold all of the company’s Tesla shares for around 3.6 billion US dollars. The company is said to have originally bought the shares for 30 million.
It’s one of those wins that is very rare. Panasonic, Tesla’s main battery supplier, has sold all of the Tesla shares it had held since 2010. For example, 30 million became around 3.6 billion dollars because Tesla had left the once larger battery manufacturer well behind in terms of market value over the duration of the investment.
Huge profit helps to refinance Panasonic’s investment in the Gigafactory Nevada
The investment in Tesla was made in the context of the beginning of the business relationship and a long-term supply contract between the two companies. After that, Tesla grew rapidly and the partnership with Panasonic resulted in the joint construction of the Gigafactory in the US state of Nevada, which became the largest battery factory in the world.
The sale of all Tesla shares at a time when the demand for electric cars and the demand for batteries from the manufacturers of these very electric cars is growing rapidly, raises questions. Panasonic is therefore rushing to make it clear that the sale of shares will not tarnish the business relationship with Tesla. It remains to be seen whether Tesla boss Elon Musk sees it the same way.
Relations between Panasonic and Tesla are no longer untroubled
In fact, there have been several climatic cloudinesses in the relationship between Tesla and Panasonic. In the opinion of Tesla, for example, the (too) slow ramp-up of battery production in the Gigafactory Nevada was responsible for delivery bottlenecks for Model 3. Tesla was also not entirely convinced of the quality and prices of the Panasonic cells.
In the end, Tesla announced in autumn 2020 on the occasion of “Battery Day” that it would in future be producing its own cells in its own factories. The Gigafactory Grünheide in Brandenburg is to move up to the rank of the largest battery factory in the world.
But because Tesla, even with an iron focus and a lot of money, will not be able to set up sufficient in-house battery production in the foreseeable future, battery manufacturers are not worried. On the contrary, Panasonic even wants to make a “large investment” in the production of Tesla’s new 4680 battery cell. The new Panasonic boss Yuki Kusumi confirmed at the beginning of the week that the prototype of a production line is already under construction. Other battery cell manufacturers are also positioning themselves for the production of cells developed by Tesla.
Does Panasonic have a new CEO because of Tesla?
Meanwhile, observers are linking the dismissal of Kusumi predecessor and Musk supporter Kazuhiro Tsuga with Tesla. After all, Panasonic was only able to make a profit from the Gigafactory Nevada for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2019. The Japanese investment in the Gigafactory Nevada alone is said to have been almost four billion dollars. Not much of that had gone back into the company’s coffers so far.
In addition, the Japanese Musk resent the massive pressure that the Tesla boss had exerted, especially at the beginning of Model 3 production, when he spoke of a “production hell” and blamed Panasonic for it alone. All in all, Panasonic’s share sale, apart from all statements to the contrary, could be a first clear reference to Tesla. At least when it comes to the battery cell business, qualified manufacturers can basically choose their customers these days.