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Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Source: Patrick Pleul/DPA via Reuters.
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  • Tesla chief Elon Musk sold roughly US$5 billion (A$6.84 billion) worth of shares in the electric vehicle maker following a Twitter poll over the weekend
  • On Saturday, Musk asked his Twitter followers if he should sell 10 per cent of his stake in Tesla, triggering a slide in the company’s share price
  • Shares in Tesla sank 12 per cent on Tuesday amid a multi-day sell-off that threatened the company’s position in the US$1 trillion (A$1.37 trillion) club
  • But while Tesla may have had around US$150 billion (A$205 billion) wiped off its market capitalisation this week, retail investors seem to be the most optimistic

According to regulatory documents filed on Wednesday, Tesla chief Elon Musk sold roughly US$5 billion (A$6.84 billion) worth of shares in the electric vehicle maker following a Twitter poll over the weekend.

On Saturday, Musk asked his Twitter followers if he should sell 10 per cent of his stake in Tesla. It triggered a slide in the company’s share price, with just under 58 per cent of respondents saying they supported the sale.

In his first divestment since 2016, Musk’s trust sold almost 3.6 million shares worth around US$4 billion (A$5.47 billion), and sold another 934,000 shares — roughly 0.5 per cent of his total stake — for US$1.1 billion (A$1.51 billion) after exercising options to acquire nearly 2.2 million shares.

Shares in Tesla sank 12 per cent on Tuesday amid a multi-day sell-off that threatened the company’s position in the US$1 trillion (A$1.37 trillion) club, but recovered 4.3 per cent on Wednesday.

The options-related sale was set up in September, under a trading plan that allows corporate insiders to establish pre-planned transactions on a schedule. However, it isn’t clear whether the trading plan related to his Twitter poll.

While Tesla may have had around US$150 billion (A$205 billion) wiped off its market capitalisation this week, retail investors seem to be the most optimistic. Roughly 58 per cent of Tesla trade orders on Fidelity’s brokerage website were for purchases on Wednesday, rather than sales.

Retail investors also made net purchases of US$157 million (A$215 million) on Monday and Tuesday, according to Vanda Research.

So far this year, Tesla’s share price is up by more than 51 per cent, thanks largely to a rally in October sparked by an order for 100,000 cars from vehicle rental company Hertz.

“The company itself is on fire, with strong results,” said Tim Ghriskey, a senior portfolio strategist at New York-based investment management firm Ingalls and Snyder.

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