Why Goldman Sachs Issued a Sell Rating on Tesla and Sees 28% Downside Risk

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Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) just got some new pessimism that will raise some eyebrows for those who believe Elon Musk is the next economic prophet. Goldman Sachs lowered what was an already cautious Neutral rating and pessimistic price target of $190 by cutting Tesla to Sell with a $185 price target.

After the prior week’s earnings report, Tesla shares were down about 8% from just before the report. Shares were indicated down about 3% more after the Goldman Sachs call.

While some analyst reports have been overly cautious on Tesla, the reality is that this Sell rating from Goldman Sachs will stand out more than if it was from another firm. This means that Goldman Sachs is telling the world’s top mutual funds, hedge funds and wealthy investors to get out of Tesla.

While not all details of the report were out in the wee hours of Monday, several near-term challenges were cited. The coming launch of the mass market Model 3 is one, an operational execution risk is there for the launch and for the unproven solar business now that Tesla owns SolarCity.

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Goldman Sachs even expects that the Model 3 launch will be delayed and that the stock could be pressured from an accelerating burn rate on free cash flows.

Goldman Sachs also noted that it expects Tesla to raise another round of capital before the fourth quarter. This was also noted by Musk after the latest earnings report.

One note that stood out is that Tesla is still expected to have a lead over competing original equipment manufacturers regarding vehicle technology adoption, the architecture of electric cars and better scale.

On the acquisition of SolarCity, Goldman Sachs believes this is coming right at the same time that Tesla should be focused on becoming a mass car manufacturer. The firm sees limited synergies and is in a business model transition. That acquisition also was shown to raise Tesla’s net leverage by lowering EBITDA and free cash flow.

Another cautionary word was that Tesla’s fundamental operations haven’t materially improved and the firm believes that the potential tax benefits might be a wash after considering the net present value of the company’s net operating losses (NOLs for taxes).

Tesla shares were indicated down 3.5% at $248.00 on Monday morning versus a prior close of $257.00. Tesla’s 52-week range is $178.19 to $287.39. The consensus analyst price target was closer to $240.