Investor's Corner

Key takeaways from Tesla’s Q3 report and Q&A with Musk

Tesla released its third quarter earnings after the closing bell on Wednesday, surprising Wall Street after posting nearly $22 million in profit in the quarter. This is in sharp contrast to previous analyst expectations polled by FactSet which expected Tesla to report a GAAP loss of 53 cents a share in the third quarter, and an adjusted loss per share of 22 cents, narrower than the adjusted loss of 58 cents a share in the year-ago period.

Estimize, which crowdsources estimates from buy-side and sell-side analysts, fund managers, hedge funds and academics, expected Tesla to report an adjusted loss per shares of 4 cents. Estimates on E-Trade were between a loss of 4 and 7 cents. Noted Tesla Analyst Ben Kallo of Baird, expected non-GAAP earnings per share of $0.72.

All in all, given all these numbers, Wall Street was basically expecting a breakeven quarter.


Total reported Q3 GAAP revenue was $2.30 billion, up 145% from Q3 2015. Tesla matched the higher end of the expectations. Another good news for the stock.

MarketWatch, in a live blog, called it a “Tesla earnings shocker – Actual profit”. Similarly, Bloomberg was surprised and posted the headline “Tesla Posts Rare Quarterly Profit as Musk Readies for SolarCity. The Wall Street Journal landed the news on its front page with the headline “Tesla Shares Jump after Posting Best Quarterly Sales Ever.”

I believe investors and analyst expectations were so low, that the clearly huge profit numbers were a “shock” to the market. This is Tesla first profitable quarter since the third quarter of 2014, a full 2 years ago, when Tesla eked out a minuscule profit of 2 cents a share. Tesla had reported losses ever since.

Stock Reaction (after hours)

The stock ended the day regular session at $202.24, down 10c for the day.  The stock is down heavily from the $267 in early April, around the time Tesla started taking reservations for the Model 3.

The initial reaction of traders was very positive, as right after the quarterly results were published, Tesla shares rose as high as $215, about 7% in after-hours trading, with very high volume.



The conference call did not change much as the after-hour session closed at $212, or up about 5% so we would expect a higher opening on Thursday.

Analysts polled by TipRanks have an average rating of hold on the stock, with an average stock price target of $199.13, about even from current levels at the close. These levels may well be adjusted tomorrow on the upside 5-7%, given the huge beat on expectations.

Source: TipRanks

Source: TipRanks

Conference Call Q&A Top Quotes

Besides the financial report, investors wanted to hear about future production, which they are counting on to justify the still fairly high Tesla share price.

In the Tesla Third Quarter 2016 Update letter, Tesla noted that they “achieved record production levels in Q3, raising to 25,185 vehicles for an increase of 37% from Q2, and an increase of 92% from Q3 last year.” Also, Tesla “maintained guidance of 50,000 new vehicle deliveries for the second half of 2016 […] despite the challenges of winter weather and the holiday season.”

Best Quarter Ever

At the start of the conference call Elon Musk called the “quarter the best ever,” with fourth quarter expected to be great as well, with Q4 to be profitable even including non cash stock based expenses.

Musk called it “One of the best moments in Tesla history.” Elon also addressed rumors of widespread discounting as reason for profit: called the, “absolutely false,” and pointed out that “vehicle profitability increased without ZEV credits.”

Model 3

Elon reiterates volume production for Model 3 in second half of next year. The terms that the company are getting for suppliers is much better. Model 3 production and logistics are way faster, says Musk. He also forecasts an increase in gross margin, even after big beat on that metric in the quarter just reported. As a result, Elon does say he doesn’t expect to raise more capital in Q1 2017, though he won’t rule it out.

Musk dodged a question about Model 3 deposits: “That’s not something we comment on and not something that deserves merit,” he says.

Elon listed his 3 top priorities: Model 3 production schedule, advancing autopilot software, and ramp up of 100 kWh production line. After the call, Musk will be at the 100 kWh production line as “demand is high,” he says.


The SolarCity deal about “cash neutral” for Tesla, Musk says. If this is indeed found to be true, it may help with the approval of the deal coming up soon for vote by the shareholders.

“It’s important to have ‘tight control’ of solar panels production in order to have a ‘beautiful’ product. Confident it would have the best product at the best price, and one that would look better as well,” Musk says.

The solar roof product that will be offered by combined Tesla-SolarCity will “look better than a normal roof” and will be aimed at new houses being built and homes where the roof needs to be replaced anyway. Musk said that “People will be surprised by the product to be unveiled on Friday. It exceeded my expectation,” he says.

Full Autonomy

Elon said that “radar is moving from supplemental to primary sensor. Vision is still the main thing, but radar can be primary so you can take action based on radar, similarly as you can take action based on vision.” Elon also called out MobilEye for “issuing bullshit” on radar vs. vision argument in autonomous driving.

According to Musk, “Teslas on Autopilot are logging 1.5 million miles per day through all kinds of road conditions and weather all across the world.”

All in all no real surprises out of the conference call, and the good thing is that the stock held steady during the call. Definitely a good day for Tesla.

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