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Tesla gets ‘Strong Buy’ rating amid Panasonic’s pledge to ramp Gigafactory 1 battery production

Tesla stock (NASDAQ:TSLA) recently received a vote of confidence from one of Wall Street’s veteran investment research firms. In a note on Tuesday, Zacks Investment Research upgraded Tesla from a “Hold” rating to a “Strong Buy” rating, citing the electric car maker’s strong performance in the third quarter. The research firm also gave TSLA a price target of $381, suggesting an upside of around 13% from the stock’s current price.

In its note to its clients, Zacks Investment Research pointed out that Tesla’s third-quarter figures show that the company is making progress despite meeting several challenges over the past quarters. The research firm further noted that Tesla’s upcoming focus on its energy business bodes well for the company’s potential in the future.

“In third-quarter 2018, Tesla’s earnings per share and revenues surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimates. Also, both earnings and revenues improved year over year. In third-quarter 2018, Tesla produced 80,142 vehicles. This included 53,239 Model 3s, and 26,903 Model S and Model X vehicles. Deliveries to customers amounted to 55,840 Model 3 along with 27,660 Model S and X.

“These numbers are close to estimates and indicate that the company is making good progress despite hurdles. The company is focusing to grow its energy storage deployment and aims to deploy at least three times of what is deployed in 2017. Over the past six months, shares of Tesla outperformed the industry it belongs to. Moreover, over the past one month, the Zacks Consensus Estimates for both the current quarter and current year earnings are moving upwards.”

An upgrade from Zacks Investment Research bodes well for Tesla stock. The research firm, after all, utilizes a quantitative stock-rating system, which relies entirely on mathematics. This means that the company’s findings and conclusions are unaffected by headwinds in Wall Street or any similar external factor. This approach has made Zacks the research firm of choice for over 200 brokerages, as well as numerous Wall Street analysts.

Tesla’s upgraded rating from Zacks comes amidst reports that Panasonic Corp has pledged to ramp the production of its battery cells at Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 in Nevada. In an announcement on Wednesday, Panasonic reported a decline in its quarterly profit due to the rising costs of its operations in the Gigafactory. Despite this, the Japanese company stated that it was in talks to augment its $1.6 billion investment and take capacity at Gigafactory 1 over the 35 GWh it is expected to reach by the end of March 2019.

In a statement to Reuters, Panasonic Chief Executive Kazuhiro Tsuga stated that as Tesla ramps its vehicle production, the battery maker will ramp battery production as well. The Panasonic executive further noted that while Elon Musk attracts a substantial amount of noise due to his behavior online, Tesla’s fundamentals seem to be stable.

“Investment for capacity beyond 35 GWh means that Tesla would also need to make substantial investment in vehicle production, so we will closely align with each other. Though Elon’s comments are unpredictable, we will continue to monitor Tesla’s operations to ensure no chaos there and will work in step with the company. But I don’t see the U.S. electric car maker’s business operations have been put into chaos,” Tsuga said.

Since ending the third quarter on a high note, Tesla appears to have hit overdrive with its Model 3 production ramp. In October alone, for example, Tesla registered more than 61,000 Model 3 VINs — equal to the total VINs the company filed during the first 11 months of the electric car’s production. Tesla has also introduced a new Mid Range Model 3 variant this month, which puts the electric sedan closer to its target $35,000 base price.

As of writing, Tesla stock is trading +2.02% at $336.53 per share.

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

Tesla gets ‘Strong Buy’ rating amid Panasonic’s pledge to ramp Gigafactory 1 battery production
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