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Tesla shares slip 5% after suspected arson attack halts production at Berlin gigafactory

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Tesla’ logo is seen on the Tesla factory building in Berlin, Germany on February 22, 2024. In the southeastern outskirts of Berlin, within the Grunheide district, local residents are expressing opposition to the expansion plans of the first automobile factory of US electric car manufacturer, Tesla in Europe. 
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The Gruenheide factory, located southeast of the German capital, was left without power, as were parts of wider city, Reuters cited German newspaper Berliner Zeitung as saying. The newspaper added that bomb disposal units had been dispatched to the site.

Left-wing extremists the “Volcano Group” claimed responsibility for the attack in a letter posted to alternative news site Kontrapolis. “We sabotaged Tesla told,” it said, according to a Google translation, before denouncing the electric vehicle maker’s professed green credentials.

CNBC could not independently verify the letter.

Tesla was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC. However, Reuters cited a company spokesperson as confirming that production had stopped and the site had been evacuated.

Brandenburg police told CNBC that the incident initially looked like arson and added that it is currently investigating who is responsible.

Tesla’s Frankfurt-listed shares were down 2.4% at 12:20 p.m. local time, while its U.S.-listed shares were 2% lower in pre-market trade.

Police received a call alerting them to the burning electricity pylon in the Gosen-Neu Zittau area at around 5:15 a.m. local time, Der Spiegel reported.

It comes as Tesla’s expansion plans for its Gruenheide plant have come up against fierce opposition.

The U.S. carmaker aims to double its capacity to 100 gigawatt hours of battery production and 1 million cars per year. However, last month locals voted down plans to raze nearby trees to make way for the enlarged plant.

The BZ newspaper linked the fire with environmental activists in a nearby area. CNBC could not independently verify the report and local police reportedly would not comment on any possible link.

Environmental activists began occupying a forest close to Tesla’s Gruenheide plant last week in protest to the expansion plans. The occupation began late Wednesday, with demonstrators building a dozen treehouses across the wooded area. The campout is expected to last one week, though a spokeswomen for the “Stop Tesla” campaign group told DW Sunday that “the longer the occupation lasts the better.”

In 2021, far-left activists claimed responsibility for a fire broke out at Tesla’s Gruenheide site, which was then under construction. The Volcano Group also claimed responsibility for that attack.

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