Tesla's stock dip is exactly what Apple needs to acquire the automaker and save its self-driving EV program.
It’s not a well-kept secret that Apple has been working on autonomous vehicle technology under its "Project Titan” program with the intent of one day building its own self-driving EV. While Apple’s secrecy makes it hard to say how far along it is in this endeavor, there are a few things the tech giant could do to speed things up, assuming it’s still behind the curve. It could, for one, acquire Tesla.
In fact, Apple already thought of that back in 2013, according to what Roth Capital Partners analyst Craig Irwin told CNBC. Back then, Apple offered to acquire Tesla for about $240 a share, but talks crumbled when Apple supposedly stipulated that Elon Musk had to step down as Tesla’s leader if the deal went through.
"Around 2013, there was a serious bid from Apple at around $240 a share,” said Irwin during an interview on SquawkBox. "This is something we did multiple checks on. I have complete confidence that this is accurate. Apple bid for Tesla. I don’t know if it got to a formal paperwork stage, but I know from multiple different sources that this was very credible.”
The reason a Tesla acquisition by Apple is relevant again is that the automaker’s stock price has taken a nosedive in recent months. This year alone, Tesla’s stock has fallen 38% and is down 46% from its peak in 2018. At one point, Tesla’s market cap even blew past Ford’s and went on to a high of over $400 in August of 2018, just before Musk infamously announced he had secured funding to take the company private at $420 a share. But a sharp drop in sales has led Tesla’s stock to fall to $193.26 as of this writing, less than the $240-per-share offer Apple supposedly made in 2013.
If Apple were to take control of Tesla, it would gain access to the automaker’s autonomous and electric car technology as well as to its brand, which could help the iPhone maker gain a foothold in the notoriously tough-to-enter auto industry. According to Irwin, the deal still makes sense for Apple. "If Apple had interest then, they would probably have interest now at the right price,” he said.
Of course, neither Apple nor Tesla are saying anything about a potential takeover, but if the deal were to happen it would mark Apple’s biggest takeover by a long shot. The current record was set by the $3 billion Apple paid to buy Beats Electronics in 2014. Tesla’s current $34.32 billion market cap would put that sum to shame. But if there’s one thing Tesla needs, it’s lots of cash to keep its operations going. And cash is exactly what Apple has almost too much of.