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S’pore-based major Tesla investor, who wanted Musk out as CEO, backs firm’s latest bot tech

SINGAPORE – Singapore-based Leo KoGuan, who has invested US$3.5 billion (S$4.8 billion) in Tesla and is planning to buy more shares, said he views the electric carmaker more as a cutting-edge software company and believes its humanoid robot will be a force to be reckoned with. 

“I see Tesla as an artificial intelligence software company. The key for me is software – software in electric vehicles, energy, insurance and robotics,” said Mr KoGuan, who is the third-largest individual shareholder of Tesla, after the company’s chief executive Elon Musk and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison.

He was one of the panellists speaking about leveraging innovations at the 2023 Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore this week.

Mr KoGuan, who has a love-hate relationship with Mr Musk, had on Dec 14 publicly called on the Tesla boss to step down in a tweet, voicing unhappiness over his lack of leadership.

At the Forbes conference here, he reiterated that the 20-year-old Tesla did not need a distracted Mr Musk at the helm, but someone who could execute his vision.

Mr KoGuan, who owns more than 22 million Tesla shares, said its robot – known as Tesla Bot or Optimus – is under-rated as it is still not quite yet a working prototype but stressed it could potentially replace human labour in the future. The demand is expected to be as high as 10 to 20 billion units.

“Just capturing 10 per cent to 20 per cent of the global labour market will be a humongous replacement by Tesla Bot,” said the Indonesian-born American.

Mr KoGuan is the founder and chairman of SHI International, an information technology-related company that has over 20,000 customers such as Boeing and AT&T. It is one of the largest privately held companies in the US with revenue of more than US$14.3 billion in 2022.

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According to Forbes, Mr KoGuan, 68, has a net worth of US$7.3 billion.

The Tesla Bot is not yet mass-produced but has come a long way since August 2021, when the concept was revealed and the so-called “first prototype” was an actor prancing around in a bodysuit.

At Tesla’s shareholders meeting in May, Mr Musk shared footage of five Tesla Optimus prototypes, or early concept samples, performing simple tasks and walking steadily around the office.

Mr KoGuan predicted that by the end of 2025, electric vehicles will make up 30 per cent to 50 per cent of new cars. By the end of 2030, he expects the figure to be 100 per cent.

His comments came before Morgan Stanley issued an upgrade on Tesla shares later on Monday. 

Similarly, Morgan Stanley’s analysts argued that Tesla should be viewed as a technology company as much as an electric carmaker.

The US firm raised its price target for Tesla to US$400 from US$250, underpinned by the potential of Tesla’s supercomputer Dojo, which Morgan Stanley believes could add up to US$500 billion to the company’s value long-term.

Mr Musk said in July that Tesla planned to spend more than US$1 billion on Dojo by the end of 2024. Tesla is developing Dojo to help with machine learning and training computers to “see” as part of its cars and nascent robotics efforts.

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