Tesla Earnings Jitters

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Electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) reports earnings after markets close Wednesday, and the latest estimates from Thomson Reuters call for earnings of $0.10 per share (versus $0.12 a year ago) on revenue growth of 24% to $699.1 million. But investors appear to be a little nervous ahead of the report.

The company’s production target for 2014 is 35,000 vehicles, with an eventual goal of 1,000 cars a week. Expected deliveries in the first quarter are expected to be around 6,400 units, well below the target pace. The number of cars currently rolling down the production line is a good barometer of how likely it is that the company will reach its goal.

Another thing to watch for is information on the company’s expansion into China and its shipments to Europe. CEO Elon Musk likely also will have something to say about progress on Tesla’s efforts to sell its vehicles directly to consumers. There is also the so-called Gigafactory, a $5 billion project to build batteries, and a rumored vehicle that would be available by around 2017 that would sell for about $30,000.

Tesla’s shares trade at around 112 times expected 2014 earnings and about 52 times expected 2015 earnings. That is awfully rich, and investors have begun to notice. Since early March shares are down about 19% and traded down another 3% Wednesday at $200.85 in advance of earnings. The stock’s 52-week range is $55.71 to $265.00.

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