Thumbs Down on Tesla From JPMorgan

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Ever since Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter that he had “funding secured” to take the company private at $420 a share, interviews with Musk, more tweets and more analysis have washed over the idea than is probably necessary. In many ways, the argument over whether Tesla will succeed in its grand strategy to move the world to less polluting all-electric vehicles is similar to whether cryptocurrency and blockchain will change the world the world of money and finance: you either believe the story or you don’t.

JPMorgan analyst Ryan Brinkman is wavering. The firm announced Monday morning that it has cut its price target on Tesla by 36%, from $308 to $195. Brinkman had raised his price target to $308 on August 8, the day Musk tweeted that he had secured funding to take Tesla private.

Brinkman is no longer so sure about that. CNBC cites his Monday morning note to investors:

Our interpretation of subsequent events leads us to believe that funding was not secured for a going private transaction, nor was there any formal proposal.

JPMorgan also reiterated its Underweight rating on Tesla stock. Brinkman’s note continued:

The revelation the Saudi fund is subsequently asking Tesla for details of how the company would be taken private suggests to us that any deal is potentially far from even being formally proposed, which is different from our understanding on August 8 which was based on Mr. Musk’s statement on Twitter. Tesla does appear to be exploring a going private transaction, but we now believe that such a process appears much less developed than we had earlier presumed (more along the lines of high level intention), suggesting formal incorporation into our valuation analysis seems premature at this time.

Brinkman did not address recent concerns about Musk’s stability. In an interview last week with The New York Times, Musk said that the past year has been the “most difficult and painful” of his career. He also told the times that he had been working 120 hours a week recently and that he had not taken more than a week off since 2001.

In a world where money talks, though, Musk’s personal struggles get little attention from analysts whose reputation and income is more closely tied to being right about where investors should put their money: if Musk is struggling, he can get some help, either by hiring someone to run Tesla or SpaceX, or actually securing funding to supplement Tesla’s ferocious cash burn.

Predictably, Tesla’s stock traded down more than 5% in Monday’s premarket at $289.63 after closing at $305.50 on Friday. It was last seen at $295.84, in a 52-week range of $244.59 to $389.61 and with a consensus price target of $329.24.