Musk Companies Backed by Nearly $5 Billion in Taxpayer Cash

Elon Musk shows his SpaceX Dragon spacecraft in Texas / Ap

Billionaire pop technologist Elon Musk has built a business empire worth billions, but it took massive taxpayer support to get his three flagship companies where they are.

Musk’s companies—commercial spaceflight firm SpaceX, solar panel installer SolarCity, and luxury electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla—have together received $4.9 billion in U.S. taxpayer support, the Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend.

He definitely goes where there is government money," said Dan Dolev, an analyst at Jefferies Equity Research. "That's a great strategy, but the government will cut you off one day."

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The figure compiled by The Times comprises a variety of government incentives, including grants, tax breaks, factory construction, discounted loans and environmental credits that Tesla can sell. It also includes tax credits and rebates to buyers of solar panels and electric cars. […]

Tesla and SolarCity continue to report net losses after a decade in business, but the stocks of both companies have soared on their potential; Musk's stake in the firms alone is worth about $10 billion. (SpaceX, a private company, does not publicly report financial performance.)

Musk and his companies' investors enjoy most of the financial upside of the government support, while taxpayers shoulder the cost.