Tesla buys into bitcoin in a big way

Tesla has spent over $1.5bn on bitcoin, driving the price higher, and says it will accept the cryptocurrency as payment for its cars.

A Tesla electric car
(Image credit: © Tesla)

Following Elon Musk’s promotion of bitcoin on Twitter, his company Tesla spent $1.5bn on it in January, say Caitlin Ostroff and Rebecca Elliott in The Wall Street Journal.

This is part of a move to invest its reserves in a wider range of assets, including gold, in order to “diversify and maximise returns” on any cash “not required to maintain adequate operating liquidity”. Tesla has also said that “it expects to start accepting bitcoin as payment for its products soon”.

Few companies are likely to follow Elon Musk, say Richard Waters and Eric Platt in the Financial Times. The whole point of having corporate reserves is to protect a “company’s financial liquidity”, so any cash on hand tends to go into “very high-quality, short-term fixed-income securities” rather than into a “risky asset such as bitcoin”, which could experience “significant declines”.

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Even accepting bitcoin as a means of payment won’t be easy, as the mechanics of converting bitcoin into a $58,000 Tesla Model 3 “may be far more trouble than people think”, says Edward Robinson on Bloomberg.

This is because the customer and Tesla will have to agree on an exchange price “for one of the most volatile assets in the world”. Indeed, with even dedicated fans finding it “too impractical to use” for everyday transactions, it is unlikely that most consumers “will truly embrace assets that can lose 10% of their value in a day”. Still, at least Musk and Tesla are attracting “a lot of headlines”, which may be the real reason for the bitcoin purchase.

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri