Why Goldman Sachs Sees Tesla Rising Another 25%

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Whether investors like electric vehicles or not, the rise of Elon Musk and Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) has undeniably been one of the greatest growth and investment stories of this decade. Now Goldman Sachs has issued a Buy rating on Tesla Motors, calling for another 25% upside in Tesla shares.

The Goldman Sachs upgrade from Neutral came with a $250 price target, almost 25% higher than the $204.66 prior close. The driving force for the upgrade (no pun intended) may be the Model 3, which has yet even to enter production.

Note that the Tesla call seems to be a partial adjustment more tuned toward the formal rating rather than the target price. Furthermore, the target is less than the consensus analyst price target — and Goldman Sachs is not even predicting a new 52-week high here.

The report indicated that Goldman Sachs underestimated the number of reservations that the upcoming Model 3 sedan would get, as Tesla turns from a luxury car to a mass-market car maker. The firm also calls Tesla’s macro backdrop now stable.

Goldman Sachs also suggested that shares being down 15% year to date just doesn’t fully capture the company’s “disruptive potential to the auto market.”

The firm said that Tesla would need to raise roughly $1 billion of new capital to accommodate its growth plans and the build-out to ramp up Model 3 production.

There is at least one word of caution here. Goldman Sachs feels that Tesla’s goal of a half-million vehicles for 2018 may be rather ambitious.

Thomson/First Call showed that of the 18 brokerages in its universe, there are eight ratings of Buy. It also shows expected sales of $8.5 billion in 2016 rising as follows: $11.69 billion in 2017, $17.67 billion in 2018 and $20.65 billion in 2019.

When Tesla gave its guidance for unit sales and orders, it said:

Given our plans to advance our 500,000 total unit build plan, essentially doubling the prior growth plan, we are re-evaluating our level of capital expenditures, but expect it will be about 50% higher than our previous guidance of $1.5 billion for 2016. Naturally, this will impact our ability to be net cash flow positive for the year, but given the demand for Model 3, investing to meet that demand is the best long-term decision for Tesla.

24/7 Wall St. showed how most analysts covered Tesla in the wake of earnings and news of Model 3 orders. For whatever it is worth, our notes at that time showed that Tesla’s rating at Goldman Sachs was Neutral, but the price target already had been raised to $250 from $245.

In late morning trading on Wednesday, Tesla shares were up over 4% at $213.50. The consensus analyst price target is $265.93, and the 52-week trading range is $141.05 to $286.65.