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Tesla (TSLA) Q3 2019 earnings and return to profitability: Here’s Wall Street’s reaction

Tesla Model 3 production line in Gigafactory 3, Shanghai, China. (Credit: Tesla)

Tesla shares (NASDAQ:TSLA) spiked as high as 20% on the heels of its Q3 2019 earnings release, with the company posting a GAAP net profit of $143 million and a non-GAAP profit of $342 million, as well as earnings per share of $1.91. The results pretty much blew away Wall Street’s expectations, particularly as analysts expected Tesla to post a loss for the third quarter. 

Following its blockbuster earnings report and an equally encouraging Q&A session that saw Tesla executives confirm an earlier Model Y production date, Gigafactory 3’s battery facility, and Solar Roof V3 (among others), Wall Street has issued its take on TSLA and its Q3 earnings. Here is a compilation of what Wall Street has to say about Tesla’s Q3 2019 results. 

The Bulls

Baird analyst Ben Kallo, who holds an “Outperform” rating and a $355 price target on TSLA stock, stated that Gigafactory 3’s activation in Shanghai could be a true difference-maker. “Tesla did lower 2019 volume guidance, though paradoxically we think this will drive estimates higher as investors are better able to bridge to fourth-quarter deliveries. We think ramping volumes (especially in Shanghai) and product development will provide a steady cadence of catalysts over the next 6-12 months and expect shares to trade higher,” he noted.

Piper Jaffray’s Alexander Potter, who holds an “Overweight” rating on the electric car maker, stated that “it’s getting harder to poke holes in the TSLA thesis.” Potter mentioned that while skeptics had legitimate concerns in the past, Tesla has reached a point where it is building cash, gaining traction in the market, and boosting its margins. “Even considering all the EV-related fanfare from competitors, it’s hard to see how other auto companies can catch up with Tesla — at least in the next 3+ years,” he stated. 

The Neutral

Daniel Ives of Wedbush, who maintains a “Neutral” rating and a $220 price target on Tesla stock, described Q3 2019 as a “Picasso-like quarter,” though he maintained that concerns remain about the sustainability of demand for the company’s vehicles and products. “Is demand and this level of profitability sustainable? That will be the key question for the Street this morning as the bull/bear debate will view this quarter as Musk and Fremont pulling an eye-popping quarter out of the hat with worries that the lack of investments and tighter expense model is not sustainable going forward,” he noted. 

Roth Capital analyst Craig Irwin, who has a “Neutral” rating on TSLA stock and an adjusted price target of $249 from $224 per share, described the company’s third-quarter results as “robust,” though he also stated that he remains cautious, partly due to profit sustainability concerns. “(Tesla’s) volatile quarterly EPS progression should have investors closely scrutinizing sustainable profit levels, and credible growth rates in an increasingly competitive environment,” Irwin stated. 

The Bears

Arndt Ellinghorst of Evercore ISI, who has an “Underperform” rating and a price target of $200 per share on Tesla stock, admitted that Q3 2019 was an outstanding quarter for the electric car maker. Nevertheless, the analyst stated that he remains concerned about momentum and profitability in 2020. “While we remain concerned on 2020 momentum/profitability, we acknowledge this was an outstanding quarter relative to expectations, despite headwinds of lower average selling price and facility tooling which we expect to increase as we approach Model Y launch next year,” he wrote. 

JPMorgan analyst Ryan Brinkman, who also has an “Underweight” rating and a $220 price target, stated that he remains “unsure that this is really the breakout quarter that is likely to be claimed by the bulls.” Tesla’s gross margin of 20.8% for the third quarter beat JPMorgan’s estimates of 18.7%, though Brinkman argued that he is not certain about the “quality” of this beat. 

As of writing, Tesla stock is trading +15.55% at $294.29 per share.

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

Tesla (TSLA) Q3 2019 earnings and return to profitability: Here’s Wall Street’s reaction
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