Even With Massive Earnings Beat, Tesla Still Hasn’t Won Over Skeptics

Jacob Harper  |

On Aug. 7 Tesla Motors (TSLA) released their second quarter 2013 earnings report, and it was nothing short of astonishing. While analysts had been calling for Tesla to post losses between five cents to twenty-nine cents a share (with a consensus of 19 cents) the company actually posted a profit, beating expectations by 39 cents a share. It was the second quarter in a row the carmaker has posted a surprise profit, and the stock in turn skyrocketed. It’s up 18 percent, and almost 280 percent on the year.

But with any meteoric rise in price comes the first whispers of “overhype” and “bubble.” And the popular company with the hot-shot CEO (42-year-old Elon Musk) still has its share of vocal detractors.

Despite the earnings triumph, AutoWeek editor Wes Raynal remained skeptical. He cited the fact that, currently, electric cars don’t actually save consumers money, and thus their market potential is still limited to the rich and curious.

Raynal also cited the fact that Tesla currently doesn’t use dealerships, and sells their car directly through their website. This could eventually be challenged by state franchise laws that require automobiles be sold through licensed dealers, and is “going to be hard to pull off” in the long-term.

Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson felt the company was expanding to fast, and warned that there are “risks inherent in (Tesla’s) ramp-up.” Goldman Sachs Group (GS) analyst Patrick Archambault was particularly bearish. He cited the worrying fact that Tesla currently trades 900 times forward earnings expectations.

For investors with stars in their eyes, however, a worrisome forward earnings ratio isn’t problematic. The bulls think demand can more than make up for current shortfalls. Even though the cheapest Tesla car, the Model S sedan, carries a price tag of $70,000, the company can barely keep the car in stock in the US.

In early Aug. Tesla shipped their first cars to Norway, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, marking their first foray into Europe. The company is expected to expand into China in late 2013.

The company has also repaid the entirety of their $465 million government loan nine years ahead of schedule, and according to Musk are in a financial position that has “never been stronger.” Musk reported that the company currently has $747 million in cash on hand.

Whether the bulls or the bears are right on Tesla will take years to play out. But for 2013, analyst Drew Cupps of Chicago-based Cupps Capital Management gave perhaps the only true consensus opinion on Tesla when he called it “the biggest stock of the year.”

Tesla is up 17.25 percent to hit $157.22 a share. They’re up an astronomical 279.61 percent on the year.

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