Investor's Corner

Tesla stock slides 9% amid reports that Elon Musk and board will meet with SEC next week

Tesla stock (NASDAQ:TSLA) was down as much as 9%, hitting a low of $305.70 during intraday trading on Friday, amid reports that Elon Musk and the electric car maker’s board of directors are preparing to meet with the Securities and Exchange Commission as early as next week. The upcoming meeting with the SEC will reportedly be focused on how Musk announced and handled the aftermath of his tweet last week, when he stated that funding was “secured” for Tesla’s possible privatization at $420 per share.

The Tesla CEO recently admitted in an hourlong interview with the New York Times that he was getting exhausted, and that the pressure from the Model 3 ramp and attacks from TSLA short-sellers are contributing to his stress. Interspersed with Musk’s interview in the NYT piece were statements from several unnamed sources who alleged that the board had been angry at Musk over his go-private tweets, and that the board was worried about the CEO’s use of the drug Ambien. Honest and raw quotes from Elon Musk, such as his statement that “from a personal pain standpoint, the worst is yet to come” despite Tesla’s progress in its operations, painted a rather gloomy picture of the company — particularly its leader.

Tesla has had to deal with several pieces of negative news this week. Just recently, Tesla’s alleged saboteur and self-proclaimed “whistleblower” Martin Tripp published pictures of supposedly damaged Model 3 battery packs that were reportedly installed on vehicles. The photos, as well as a list of Model 3 VINs allegedly equipped with the damaged batteries, were picked up by several media outlets before Tripp decided to delete his Twitter account. Stuart D. Meissner, Tripp’s lawyer in his countersuit against Tesla, also took on another client — Karl Hansen, a former Tesla security employee at Gigafactory 1, who is also suing the electric car maker.

Hansen’s claims against Tesla rival those of Martin Tripp’s, with the former employee alleging that Tesla did not disclose the theft of $37 million worth of copper and raw materials that were stolen from Gigafactory in the first half of 2018. Hansen also accused Tesla of wiretapping and hacking employees’ computers and mobile phones. Capping off Hansen’s lawsuit was his grandest claim yet — that Tesla did not disclose to law enforcement and the US Drug Enforcement Agency that some Gigafactory employees were involved in drug trafficking. Tesla, for its part, denied Hansen’s accusations.

“Mr. Hansen’s allegations were taken very seriously when he brought them forward. Some of his claims are outright false. Others could not be corroborated, so we suggested additional investigative steps to try and validate the information he had received second-hand from a single anonymous source. Because we wanted to be sure we got this right, we made numerous attempts to engage further with Mr. Hansen to understand more about what he was claiming and the work that he did in reaching his conclusions. He rejected each of those attempts, and to date has refused to speak with the company further. It seems strange that Mr. Hansen would claim that he is concerned about something happening within the company, but then refuse to engage with the company to discuss the information that he believes he has.”

Tesla was also hit with reports alleging that the company was sending workers from GA3 home early despite not meeting the day’s production goal. UBS also claimed in a report that Tesla’s $35,000 Standard trim Model 3 would cause the company to lose $5,900 on every vehicle sold. UBS’ findings stand in stark contrast to conclusions drawn by Detroit veteran Sandy Munro, who estimated that the $35,000 base Model 3 should give Tesla a profit margin of 18% after conducting a thorough teardown of the electric sedan.

Amidst the negativity surrounding the stock, Tesla received some votes of confidence this week. Several Wall Street analysts, including known TSLA bears, raised their price targets for the company. Auto analysts from Evercore ISI also concluded after an extensive tour of Tesla’s Fremont factory — particularly the Model 3 assembly lines — that the company should be able to hit a production rate of 8,000 Model 3 per week with very little capital expenditure. The Evercore ISI analysts further noted that Tesla is well on its way to achieving a steady weekly production rate of 5,000-6,000 Model 3 per week.

With its latest drop, Tesla shares are now down 0.9% in 2018, compared to the S&P 500’s 6% gain. As of writing, Tesla stock is trading  -8.19% at $307.97 per share. 

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

Tesla stock slides 9% amid reports that Elon Musk and board will meet with SEC next week
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