Investor's Corner

Tesla will start being profitable by September, says Wall St veteran Gene Munster

Wall Street analyst Gene Munster from Loup Ventures has issued his expectations for Tesla’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) financial performance this coming quarter, stating that the Elon Musk-led company will start being profitable by September 2018.  

In a statement to CNBC‘s Fast Money, Munster stated that Tesla would probably not be “wildly profitable” by September, but Elon Musk’s 6,000/week target for the Model 3 would move the company’s finances towards positive territories.

“This 5,000 production number was the first time in about nine months he’s gotten one right. I think it’s safe to always dial back what he’s saying, that’s why we think Tesla’s going to meet the production number by the end of the September quarter. If they hit that number, it’s going to equate to 48,000 model 3s produced in the September quarter. That should get them to profitability, slightly profitable. It’s not going to be wildly profitable in September; I just want to warn everyone, but it moves them in the right direction.”

Tesla’s production blitz at the final week of Q2 2018 resulted in the electric car and energy company reaching its all-elusive goal of producing 5,000 Model 3 in a single week. Despite accomplishing its Model 3 targets and exhibiting a 55% growth in production compared to Q2 2017, however, Tesla stock took a nosedive on Monday, ending the day down 2.30% and trading at $335.07.

Part of the reason behind the dip in the company’s stocks were negative reports from some Wall Street analysts including CFRA’s Efraim Levy, who downgraded his rating of Tesla stock from Hold to Sell. The CFRA analyst stated that the company would likely be unable to sustain its production rate for the Model 3. Levy also criticized Tesla’s long-implemented $2,500 deposit for the compact electric car as an “aggressive attempt to meet otherwise difficult targets of being cash flow positive in Q3.”

Other Wall Street analysts, however, had far different outlooks. Apart from Gene Munster, Guggenheim Securities analyst Rob Cihra released a favorable Q3 forecast for Tesla, reiterating his Buy rating for the company’s stocks. According to Cihra, Tesla’s story as it heads for the second half of 2018 is one of leverage, as the company starts absorbing more of its fixed cost of production and expanding its margins. The Guggenheim Securities analyst also noted stated that Tesla’s in-house development of the vehicles’ components would prove to be a difference-maker.

“Tesla reaffirmed its guide for positive GAAP net income and cash flow in Q3 and Q4, which is in line with our estimates, but we believe much more optimistic than many investors continue to assume. Yet while six months later than initially projected, we continue to estimate that with Tesla now hitting its 5K/week production bogey for Model 3, that sets up prospects for the company’s overall economic model to flip from sizeable cash-burn in 1H18E to profitability in 2H18E.

“With just small tweaks post Q2 deliveries, our EPS estimates continue to be >$10 in 2019E and >$18 in 2020E, remaining well above consensus. Because Tesla makes so much of its cars in-house, we believe its proportion of FIXED cost/vehicle are particularly high (driving losses and cash-burn today) but with the flip-side then being that as Model 3 volumes now ramp, their fixed-cost absorption should make Tesla’s LEVERAGE that much higher,” Cihra wrote, according to a Barron’s report.

Guggenheim Securities expects Tesla’s total vehicle production to hit 58,000 this coming quarter, followed by 67,000 in Q4 2018.

Tesla is currently attempting to achieve profitability by Q3 or Q4 2018. Responding to a report from The Economist alleging that Tesla would do a capital raise this year, Elon Musk declared that the company would start being profitable by the third or fourth quarter. Musk doubled down on profitability in the company’s Q1 2018 earnings call, when he stated that it was “high time” for Tesla to become profitable. In order to accomplish this, Tesla has adopted a series of strategies, including trimming 9% of its workforce and opening orders for the higher-priced variants of the Model 3.

Disclosure: I have no ownership in shares of TSLA and have no plans to initiate any positions within 72 hours.

Tesla will start being profitable by September, says Wall St veteran Gene Munster
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