Elon Musk now richer than Mark Zuckerberg as Tesla shares keep surging

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Elon Musk now richer than Mark Zuckerberg as Tesla shares keep surging.

By Noah Manskar and Nicolas Vega

Elon Musk vaulted past Mark Zuckerberg to become the world’s third-richest person after Tesla snagged a spot in the S&P 500, turbocharging the electric-car maker’s stock.

Tesla shares on Tuesday jumped more than 8 percent on news that the benchmark index is finally adding Tesla. The change will require big investment firms that duplicate the index to buy the company’s shares — and could make the S&P more volatile in the future, experts say.

The jump added more than $7.8 billion to Musk’s wealth, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, leaving Musk’s net worth on Tuesday at nearly $110 billion. That still lags Amazon CEO Bezos and Microsoft magnate Gates, who are worth $185 billion and $127 billion, respectively.

Nevertheless, it’s comfortably ahead of Zuckerberg, whose net worth slipped to $104 billion as Facebook shares slid 1.4 percent to $275.

Musk had briefly supplanted the Facebook boss in the No. 3 spot in early September as the company’s shares rose on anticipation that the company would soon be admitted to the S&P 500. But Musk’s net worth tanked after the S&P delivered a surprise snub to Tesla a week later, sending the company’s shares tumbling 20 percent.

Despite the stumbles, Musk has seen his wealth grow by more than $82 billion this year, a bigger gain than anyone else on Bloomberg’s list of the world’s 500 richest people. Like Zuckerberg, the size of Musk’s fortune is heavily dependent on the stock price of his company, which could climb even further ahead of its S&P 500 debut on Dec. 21. The shares are up fivefold so far this year.

The Silicon Valley automaker had been expected to join the list in the S&P 500’s September rebalancing after posting a fourth consecutive quarterly profit in July. Garrett Nelson, an analyst at CFRA, speculated that the index may have been looking for an extra quarter of stability from the notoriously volatile stock before letting it in.

S&P may have also been concerned about the quality of Tesla’s earnings, with the company relying on regulatory credit revenue to achieve profitability, Nelson said. But after the fifth straight quarterly profit, Nelson mused that the committee “could no longer deny membership” to Tesla, noting that the automaker is already larger than 95 percent of the companies in the index by market cap.

“I don’t think we’ll ever know why they decided not to include Tesla [in September]. Their process is very tightly guarded,” Nelson said. “Even the companies themselves don’t know about changes to their index before they are announced.”

Still, Nelson added that inclusion in the S&P 500 won’t change anything for Tesla from an operational perspective, and that investors are still looking to see the automaker’s growth and execution story continue.

In the near term, Nelson says the main concern for Tesla will be a potential shutdown of its Fremont, California factory as the state begins to reimplement coronavirus lockdowns.

The last time Tesla was shut down, Musk railed against state officials, going as far as to declare he would be willing to be arrested on the factory floor rather than remain closed, and threatened to move production to Texas.

“We think there would be a lot of reluctance from Alameda County officials to [close the factory] given Musk’s threats during the last shutdown,” Nelson said.

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