Former Tesla short seller warns his TSLAQ peers: ‘I wouldn’t do that’

Tesla Giga Shanghai's stamping press. (Credit: Tesla)

Tesla stock (NASDAQ:TSLA) may have seemingly leveled out in recent days, but a longtime critic of CEO Elon Musk still thinks that it’s too risky to bet against the electric car maker. In recent comments, noted Tesla bear Carson Block admitted that he is no longer shorting TSLA, simply because it is far too dangerous to go against Musk and his EV company. 

Block, the founder of Muddy Waters Capital LLC, is a noted critic of Elon Musk. However, in an interview with Bloomberg’s Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal on the Odd Lots podcast on Wednesday, the short seller stated that he no longer has any bearish wagers against Tesla. 

“I’m not short the stock, thank God. We used to joke that Tesla, when it files for bankruptcy, will probably have a $30 billion market cap. Short it at your own risk. I wouldn’t do that,” Block said, though he noted that he still believes that Tesla’s business is unsustainable. 

Tesla has experienced a rise of over 300% since mid March. Amidst this massive bull run, and as the company exceeded expectations by delivering over 90,000 vehicles in the second quarter, TSLA stock has gained more supporters, especially among retail investors. As of Wednesday, Tesla stock was trading at 182 times its 12 month earnings, versus 10 times for rival American automaker General Motors. 

During his segment, Block stated that at one point, he had a TSLA position that involved buying the electric car maker’s convertible bonds and using the coupon payments to fund long dated puts on the stock. Eventually, the short seller admitted that he sold the debt and let the puts expire. Block then issued a warning to fellow Tesla bears, stating that it’s very risky to bet against Elon Musk. 

“It’s one thing to bet on Elon Musk, but it’s another thing to bet against him. The guy specializes in pulling rabbits out of the hat,” he said. 

While Block was cautious enough to warn short sellers who would like to bet against Tesla, references to Elon Musk “pulling rabbits out of the hat” suggest that the Muddy Waters Capital founder still maintains a rather limited view of the company’s operations and expansion. It is easy to note that Tesla vehicle registrations fell in California during Q2, for example, but one should not neglect the effects of the pandemic, or the company’s numbers compared to other automakers, for that matter. 

Tesla is also expanding its vehicle production and deliveries outside the United States, and this was no more evident than in Q2’s results. During the quarter, the company’s deliveries in the US were adversely affected by the pandemic, but sales of the Model 3 picked up in China, propelled by a ramp in Gigafactory Shanghai. And if Gigafactory Berlin goes live with Model Y production next year as planned, Tesla’s sales will be bolstered even more. Very few Tesla critics also acknowledge the potential of Tesla Energy, which is finally starting to ramp its operations. 

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

Former Tesla short seller warns his TSLAQ peers: ‘I wouldn’t do that’
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