Tesla – profitable in what way?

Giga Factory in Grünheide, © Tesla
Giga Factory in Grünheide, © Tesla

Nowadays, Tesla [Nasdaq: TSLA] is largely making headlines not for of its financials but for the tweets of its charismatic chief executive, Elon Musk. His thoughts on cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and doge coin, which, depending on the time of day, he says are a really good or a really bad deal, can dominate whole news cycles. Someone recently brought up the huge amounts of energy needed to mine them. As it turns out, the process uses non-renewable sources of energy, which could end up reflecting badly on the image of battery-electric cars as well. In response, Musk said he will rethink his position on bitcoin, which helped cause the cryptocurrency’s price to plunge from over USD 60,000 to USD 30,000. One might wonder what his behavior did to Tesla’s own USD 1.5 billion bitcoin investment.

Is that a proper way for a CEO to act in public? His more than 50 million followers, including his hardcore fan base, seem more than happy to play along. But why does the SEC stay silent? According to the commission’s settlement agreement with Tesla and its chief executive, Musk has to seek approval for tweets that could affect the stock price or the market in general.

On to the numbers: 184,800 Tesla cars were delivered in the first quarter this year. Model X and S were the least popular offerings, with around 2,000 vehicles shipped. Most orders were for Tesla’s less profitable models Y and 3. The electric carmaker posted non-GAAP earnings of USD 0.93 per share, USD 0.15 above estimates. On a more conservative GAAP basis, however, earnings came to USD 0.39 per share, USD 0.08 less than what analysts predicted. That hardly matters, though: Tesla fans, buy-side analysts and funds like ARK Invest are only ever interested in the more positive figure.

Regulatory credit and bitcoin sales brought in USD 518 million and USD 101 million, respectively. Minus those, Tesla would have most likely posted a loss this quarter. Impressive, on the other hand, the jump in revenue to USD 10.39 billion, a 73.5 percent increase year over year. And yet, compared to the fourth quarter of 2020, the first of 2021 wasn’t a good look, as car sales were up by only 4,000 units. On top of this, Stellantis, formed via a merger of Fiat and Peugeot-Citroen, said it will no longer consider buying Tesla’s zero-emission vehicle credits now that it can get enough on its own. But lucky for Tesla, there’s still Volkswagen, which reportedly agreed to buy the electric carmaker’s credits in China.

Compensation package for Musk under scrutiny

Musk’s compensation plan is quite the deal, earning him millions of options if he reaches the targets set out in the agreement. Milestones include revenue, profitability and Tesla’s market cap, which unlocks a new tranche of options each time it grows by another USD 50 billion. With the company’s market value currently exceeding USD 600 billion, Musk has the right to purchase more than 50 million shares at USD 70.01 apiece. That works out to USD 30 billion in stock. A lawsuit has been filed over the compensation package and, in my opinion, the deal could come with tax pitfalls for Tesla, as well as its shareholders. Musk has now reached six of the 12 milestones and could gain another 40 million options if Tesla meets additional targets. But if all these options are exercised, won’t that massively dilute the existing stock?

… Read more in the latest H2-International e-Journal, May 2021

Risk warning

Share trading can result in a total loss of your investment. Consider spreading the risk as a sensible precaution. The fuel cell companies mentioned in this article are small- and mid-cap businesses, which means their stocks may experience high volatility. The information in this article is based on publicly available sources, and the views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only. They are not to be taken as a suggestion of what stocks to buy or sell and come without any explicit or implicit guarantee or warranty. The author focuses on mid-term and long-term prospects, not short-term gains, and may own shares in the company or the companies being analyzed.

Author: Sven Jösting, written June 1st, 2021

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