Daimler sells Tesla stake

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German carmaker Daimler AG has sold its 4% stake in Tesla Motors Inc. as part of a reorganized of its cooperation with the California electric vehicle company.

Daimler stressed that the cooperation between the two partners on automotive projects would not be affected by the move. Daimler and Tesla have completed development work for the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive and the partnership remains in place, the company said.

Daimler added that it would receive some $780 million from the sale of the Tesla stake which it would use to strengthen its operational business. The cash inflow will boost Daimler’s earnings before interest and taxes for the year by the same amount.

The Stuttgart-based automaker originally acquired a 9.1% stake in Tesla in 2009 for an estimated $50 million prior to Tesla initial public offering. Later that year Daimler sold 40% of its Tesla stake to Abu Dhabi-based Aabar Investments PJSC. A capital increase at Tesla subsequently reduced Daimler’s share to 4%.

Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche said the group would continue to develop electric vehicles and emission-free cars on its own. "We pursue our strategy for emission-free driving consequently. Electric vehicles are one component of this roadmap. In Tesla we do have a bold partner.”

Daimler partnered with Tesla to launch the B-class Electric Drive in the United States this summer. In November, Daimler will launch the car in Europe.

Tesla’s work on batteries has been especially significant for Daimler, which pointed out that the batteries for the first generation of the Smart Fortwo electric drive had come from Tesla. The two-seater with electric drive is one of the best-selling electric cars in Germany. "Our partnership with Tesla is very successful and will be continued," Zetsche added.

Bodo Uebber, Daimler’s head of Finance & Controlling and Financial Services, said the company was “extremely satisfied with the development of our investment in Tesla, but it is not necessary for our partnership and cooperation. For this reason, we have decided to divest of our shares. This will also allow Tesla to broaden its investor base."

Thomas Weber, Daimler’s head of Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, noted that Daimler had supported Tesla as a startup company for many years and had learned a great deal from the California company. "At the same time, Tesla was able to profit from our automotive expertise. The cooperation with Tesla is one component of our activities in the field of electric mobility. It optimally complements our involvement in Deutsche ACCUmotive."

Daimler established Deutsche ACCUmotive in 2009 to develop lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles in Germany.

Tesla is also working with Panasonic on lithium-ion batteries and on the soon to be built Tesla Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada.

Daimler currently boasts the biggest portfolio of electric vehicles in the global car industry, from cars and vans to buses and light trucks.