Saudi Arabia’s desire to take a big stake in Tesla Inc. reflects its ambitious plan to build a base in the kingdom for electric-car production and diversify away from oil.
Its sovereign-wealth fund is considering raising its nearly 5% holding in Tesla TSLA, +0.64% , people familiar with the matter said. Discussions among Saudi officials about increasing the Public Investment Fund’s stake accelerated after Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk last week proposed to take the car company private in a tweet, the people said.
On Monday, Musk said in a blog post that he had been in discussions with the fund since early last year about a major investment that would help Tesla go private. In recent months, executives from PIF have approached Tesla multiple times about investing in the company, the people said.
It’s unclear whether the Saudi fund is actively in talks with Mr. Musk about a plan to take the auto maker private, and whether it would have the financing available to do so. Two people familiar with PIF’s finances said they doubt there are any serious discussions under way about the fund taking a significantly larger stake in Tesla. Indeed, the fund is struggling to find ways to finance its existing commitments. A spokesman for PIF declined to comment.
Still, a deal with Tesla would represent an extraordinary wager on technologies that compete with Saudi Arabia’s biggest generator of income: oil. Tesla’s electric vehicles, if manufactured inside the kingdom, would complement other technology investments and create a base of industry that some Saudi officials are calling the “Grand Vision” of the future, said one person familiar with the matter.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed, who is behind many of these initiatives, earlier this year toured Silicon Valley scouting for deals and he hopes to draw expertise to the kingdom by snapping up stakes in tech firms, Saudi officials have said. The 32-year-old royal has also driven recent discussions about increasing his country’s stake in Tesla, the people familiar with the matter said.
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