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Musk's Tesla to buy Musk's SolarCity for US$2.8 billion

Elon? Yes, Elon? Would you like to buy my business? Sure, Elon, name your price

Tesla has made a US$2.8 billion offer for another Elon Musk-founded company, home photovoltaic specialist SolarCity.

If the share-swap transaction goes ahead, it would (in Tesla's words) create “the world's only vertically integrated energy company offering end-to-end energy products to our customers”.

That, the company says, would mean someone who owns a Tesla 'leccy car would be using batteries made by Tesla in (eventually) its Gigafactory, charged by solar panels installed by Tesla.

Tesla's blog post also says the deal expands its addressable market, and improves its installation service.

There's also a hint that Musk, who launched the PowerWall complaining (accurately) that lead-acids are ugly and smelly, doesn't like the aesthetics of today's solar panels.

“Tesla’s experience in design, engineering, and manufacturing should help continue to advance solar panel technology, including by making solar panels add to the look of your home”, the statement says.

Presumably, a bunch of designers will be locked in a room with architects and people who understand solar panel manufacturing, and told not to come out until what goes on the roof is as good-looking as the PowerWall on the building and the car in the garage.

The acquisition would also get Tesla USA out of a business model that's a lot messier than its car-sales. In the auto market, Elon Musk decided from the beginning than instead of trying to get space on the apron of car lots around the country, the electric cars would be sold online, direct to consumers.

When it came to selling the PowerWall, a channel was necessary to handle the business of installation, configuration and integration. There's no word yet on how existing US PowerWall channel partners feel about the acquisition.

In non-US territories like Australia, Tesla has found itself facing heavy and possibly-unexpected channel competition, with multiple battery-makers duchessing installers.

After acquiring solar panel maker Silevo, SolarCity started building a factory in Buffalo, which when it opens in 2017 will have a planned output of a gigawatt's worth of panels annually.

The deal's attracted criticism already. The Wall Street Journal reckons it “defies common sense”, while Barron's complains about the share dilution involved. ®

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