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Cuomo thinks Tesla bid for SolarCity would be good for Buffalo

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo thinks the potential takeover of SolarCity by Tesla Motors could only be good for the Buffalo Niagara region and the solar panel factory now being built in South Buffalo.

“If it actually went through, I can’t see anything but good,” Cuomo said Wednesday during a stop in Buffalo. “Tesla is a $20 billion company. SolarCity is a $2 billion company. If Tesla takes over SolarCity, that makes the company that much stronger.”

Tesla’s bid to buy SolarCity, valued at between $2.6 billion and $2.8 billion, would put a new company at the helm of the Western Hemisphere’s biggest solar panel factory, now being built by the state on South Park Avenue as the centerpiece of Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic development initiative.

It would shift control of the factory to Tesla, which is run by entrepreneur Elon Musk, who also is SolarCity’s chairman and the cousin of Lyndon Rive, the solar energy systems installer’s CEO.

“If anything, it can only be better. It can’t be worse,” Cuomo said. “The two companies are basically affiliated, to begin with. There are family relationships between the two and they work very closely together.”

Cuomo said he wasn’t concerned that a Tesla takeover of SolarCity could lead to a scaled-back commitment to the Buffalo factory and SolarCity’s pledge to bring 2,900 jobs to the Buffalo Niagara region, both at the plant and through its suppliers and service providers.

“I don’t see any reason why one would draw that assumption,” Cuomo said. “This is not a hostile takeover. This is a family situation, basically. They work together. So no, if anything, I think it would just say that the parent company is just 10 times as strong as the original company, SolarCity.”

Cuomo also said he was comfortable with Musk playing a larger role in the solar panel factory project, should the takeover be completed.

“I don’t want to start family trouble between the cousins,” he said. “The leadership of SolarCity is great. There’s no doubt that Elon Musk is an international figure in this space.”

“We’re comfortable with SolarCity. It’s a major company. It has significant resources,” Cuomo said. “Tesla would be even better.”

Cuomo said he had not spoken with Musk since the deal was announced Tuesday afternoon, but that he expected to be in contact with him. “I have in the past and I will again,” he said.

But Cuomo also cautioned that the Tesla bid, which values SolarCity stock at between $26.50 and $28.50 per share, still needs to be approved by shareholders at both companies.

“First, we have see whether or not it happens. A lot of times you hear about these financial transactions, and this one is proposed and we don’t know if it actually will go through,” Cuomo said. “We had no reason to believe it was going to happen, but it would be great if it did.”

email: drobinson@buffnews.com