Panasonic, which has supplied Tesla with lithium-ion cells for its battery packs since the carmaker’s early Silicon Valley startup days, has reportedly sold off its entire stake in Elon Musk’s electric vehicle company but says their business relationship isn’t changing.
The Osaka, Japan-based electronics giant unloaded its Tesla shares during the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2021, according to a report by Nikkei Asia. Sales of the securities likely accounted for much of the $3.9 billion Panasonic reported as “proceeds from sale and redemption of investments” in annual filings and that will be used to fund new investments, Nikkei said.
Panasonic initially bought 1.4 million shares at $21.15 each around the time of Tesla’s June 2010 IPO. The company reported its stake was worth about $730 million at the end of March 2020, prior to Tesla’s 5-to-1 stock split last year and massive price increase throughout late 2020. Based on that year-earlier position, Panasonic’s stake would have been worth $4.6 billion had it not sold any shares.
Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Along with Toyota and Daimler, companies that both invested in and worked with Tesla in its formative years (and in Toyota’s case, sold it a massive assembly plant), Panasonic proved to be a particularly valuable partner. It supplied ever greater quantities of lithium-ion cells for Tesla vehicles, working closely with Tesla engineers to modify the chemistry and design to optimize them for use in high-powered electric cars. Panasonic also works with Tesla at its Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, and previously made solar power products for it at the carmaker’s Buffalo, New York plant before shutting down its operations there in the summer of 2020.
Panasonic intends to continue supplying Musk’s company with cells and is working with it on a next-generation battery Musk detailed in 2020. “Our relationship with Tesla as a business partner will not change going forward,” according to Panasonic executive who Nikkei didn’t identify.