Bill Gates 'admires' Elon Musk but warns Tesla bubble could burst

Billionaire philanthropist refuses to say if he is short-selling shares of the electric carmaker

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates discusses his views on Elon Musk's electric carmaker Tesla in an interview with the BBC. AFP

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates says he “admires” Tesla chief executive Elon Musk but is sceptical the carmaker's valuation can continue to climb as the world transitions to electric vehicles.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Gates downplayed reports of a feud with the Tesla founder amid accusations he was short-selling, or effectively betting against, shares of the Texas-headquartered company.

Mr Musk surpassed Mr Gates to become the richest person in the world this year after Tesla's valuation skyrocketed following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Animosity between the two appeared to grow after Mr Musk accused the Microsoft founder of taking out a large position against his company, something Mr Gates has yet to deny.

Mr Musk has also previously directed insults at Mr Gates on Twitter, the social media platform which he now hopes to buy in a deal worth more than $40 billion.

“There's no need for him to be nice to me,” Mr Gates said, referring to Mr Musk in an interview with Mishal Hussein on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

However, he declined to say whether he was short-selling Tesla stock. “That has nothing to do with climate change. I have ways of diversifying”, he said when asked directly about the reports.

Tesla's share price stands at just more than $950, making it one of the most highly-valued companies in the world. But Mr Gates said increased competition in the sector could lead to a large fall in its value.

“The popularity of electric cars will lead to more competition for selling those cars. So there's a difference between electric cars being adopted, and companies becoming infinitely valuable.”

Mr Gates, who spends billions fighting climate change, said going into space was not a goal of his and his “dream” was to eradicate polio and malaria.

He also said he was trying to encourage other billionaires to spend more money on humanitarian causes, in an apparent reference to Mr Musk's SpaceX and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic projects that aim to make space technology more accessible.

“I'm going to encourage others who have been wildly successful like I've been to give back to the right causes — I think philanthropy can achieve a lot,” Mr Gates said.

In the wide-ranging interview, Mr Gates said he found conspiracy theories involving him “crazy” and that some people in the street had accused him of “tracking” them through vaccines.

“In some ways, you almost have to laugh because it's so crazy,” he said. “I mean, do I really want to track people? You know, I spend billions on vaccines, I don't make money on vaccines, vaccines save lives.”

He also said his dealings with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein were a “mistake” and believed he could “absolutely” continue to run the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with his ex-wife following their divorce last year.

Mr Gates, whose new book How to Prevent The Next Pandemic has just been published, also said the world will be “digging our way out” of the pandemic “for decades to come”.

“It's very unlikely that we'll go 20 more years without another outbreak that has a chance of becoming a global pandemic”, he said.

Updated: May 11, 2022, 5:00 AM
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