Tesla may have maintained its profitability and growth while absolutely dominating the electric vehicle industry, but for Moody’s Corporation, the electric vehicle maker is still rated “junk.” An explanation for this was recently shared online, though for CEO Elon Musk, what Moody’s thinks about Tesla doesn’t really matter.
Tesla retail investors, particularly some who are quite active on Twitter, have observed that the electric vehicle maker’s Ba1 rating from Moody’s — the highest among junk ratings — doesn’t quite make sense, considering that Tesla is pretty much the only carmaker that is still growing at a meaningful rate today. Among these was retail investor Alexandra Merz, who contacted Moody’s to inquire about the matter.
Moody’s analyst Rene Lipsch responded to the retail investor, noting that Tesla’s junk status is due to factors that are more qualitative than quantitative. Lipsch also mentioned a variety of factors that affect Moody’s less-than-optimistic outlook on Tesla, such as the company’s narrow product lineup.
Following is the analyst’s response in full.
Dear Mrs. Merz,
Thank you for reaching out to us. For reference, I copied below our considerations for an upgrade of Tesla (see press release January 24 h). The considerations are not so much of a quantitative nature, but more qualitative. Importantly, we are looking for a broadening of the company’s product lineup. Today, Tesla remains narrowly reliant on primarily two models, albeit highly successful ones. Note also in this respect that one of the models was first introduced in 2017. More concrete prospects for a broader vehicle lineup would be regarded as a positive development in this respect.
The ratings could be upgraded if Tesla successfully expands its global footprint, maintains a strong competitive global presence as other automakers offer an increasing number of battery electric models, and improves its product breadth. Tesla’s ability to sustain an EBITA margin of at least 7% (measured excluding the contribution from emission credits), and a consistent, prudent financial policy are also important considerations for higher ratings. Further, Tesla will need to maintain very good liquidity, including ample cash and considerable committed availability under its revolving credit facility.
Moody’s response promptly caught the attention of notable retail TSLA investors, including YouTube content creator Dave Lee. The content creator noted that Moody’s claim that Tesla is not investment grade was “ridiculous.” Musk later responded to Lee’s tweet, stating that “Moody’s is irrelevant.”
Tesla Board Member Hiro Mizuno also commented on Moody’s reasons behind Tesla’s junk rating. Mizuno pointed out that the variety of a company’s product portfolio should not be that relevant, especially as many companies typically see massive growth with one extremely successful product. That being said, the Tesla Board Member did note that he appreciates the fact that Moody’s responded to Tesla retail investors to explain their stance on the EV maker.
Interestingly enough, Moody’s Rene Lipsch was featured in a discussion on Bloomberg about what he believes are effective strategies in the EV sector. When asked if he appreciated a focused, streamlined approach to electric vehicles, such as the one adopted by Tesla and is now also being adopted by Ford, Lipsch noted that he likes Ford’s decision to target a few automotive segments with a few focused EVs.
Disclaimer: I am long TSLA.
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