Why Tesla Stock Is Getting Pummeled Following Earnings

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When Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) reported fourth-quarter and full-year 2018 earnings after markets closed on Wednesday, the electric car maker posted adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.93 on revenues of $7.23 billion for the quarter. In the same period a year ago, the company reported a loss of $3.04 per share on revenues of $3.29 billion. The latest results also compared to consensus estimates calling for EPS of $2.19 and $7.07 billion in revenues.

For the full year, Tesla reported an adjusted net loss per share of $1.33 on revenues of $21.46 billion, compared with a net loss per share in 2017 of $8.66 on $11.76 in revenues. Analysts were looking for a net loss per share of $1.42 and revenues of $21.35 billion.

What appears to have led to a 5% drop after last night’s announcement was the news that Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja is retiring and leaving the company. His replacement, Zach Kirkhorn, is a newly minted Tesla vice president and, at 34 years of age, a controversial choice for the $53 billion company. Although Kirkhorn has been working at the company for nearly 10 years, Wall Street has its doubts.

In their letter to investors, CEO Elon Musk and Ahuja wrote that they expect to produce 7,000 Model 3 sedans a week by the end of this year. Once the planned Gigafactory in Shanghai is fully operational, annual production of Model 3 is touted to exceed 500,000 units annually sometime between the fourth quarter of this year and the second quarter of next year. If that goal is reached, Tesla will be producing about 10,000 vehicles a week

Tesla also claimed $3.7 billion in available cash, enough to “comfortably service” the $920 million note due in March.

The only really bad news in Tesla’s quarterly report is Ahuja’s retirement. The good news is that it met its production goals for the year and plans to nearly double production in the year or so ahead. The good news is tempered, however, by the outlook for the global economy and how that will influence car buyers in the year ahead. Musk is well-known for his optimism and his record of delivering on forecasts has been uneven. Will it be different this time?

Shares traded down about 4% at $296.61 early Thursday, after closing at $308.77 in a 52-week range of $244.59 to $387.46. The stock’s 12-month consensus price target before the earnings report was $330.36.

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