Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) split its stock yesterday five to one to make its shares more “affordable.” The stock price was $1,450 in Wednesday’s premarket. That gives Tesla a market value of $256 billion, more than massive telecom company Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ).
For some sense of how large Verizon is, note that the company’s revenue last year was $132 billion. Its net income was $19.3 billion. It has 152 million wireless subscribers. The company also owns Yahoo and AOL, once two of the largest internet portals in America.
There are two primary differences between Verizon and Tesla. The first is obviously size.
Tesla had revenue of $6.0 billion in the second quarter, which was down 5% from the same period a year ago. Of that, $5.2 billion was from automotive operations. Net income was a mere $104 million. Automotive revenue may reach $25 billion in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic could push that number much lower, though.
Tesla built 82,272 cars in the period, down 5% year over year. It delivered 90,891 cars, also 5% lower. Perhaps Tesla’s deliveries may reach 370,000 this year. Once again, the pandemic could have an impact on that. These figures contrast to Volkswagen, the world’s largest carmaker by unit sales, which reached 10.97 million deliveries last year.
The other difference is the trajectory of their stock prices. Over the past year, Tesla’s share price is up 484%, while Verizon’s is only 5% higher.
From the standpoint of business size, the scale weighs completely in Verizon’s favor. It is impossible to believe that Tesla could match its revenue within the next several years. While Tesla’s unit sales might drop, Verizon’s wireless numbers are unlikely to move more than a few percentage points higher in the foreseeable future. And the pandemic is unlikely to cause a large number of people to cancel wireless subscriptions, another count in Verizon’s favor. They are too essential to the day-to-day lives of most Americans.
The argument on behalf of Tesla’s market cap is that the company is the wave of the future in the car industry. However, it is hard to claim that Verizon’s business is stuck in the past. The introduction of ultrafast 5G networks will put Verizon on the cutting edge of how Americans communicate.
A look at the two companies is enough to increase the questions about Tesla’s value, particularly if it cannot hold its place as the world’s premier electric car company.