Tesla Motors Inc Earnings On Tap: A Big Gamble On Deliveries

Tesla Motors Inc Earnings On Tap: A Big Gamble On Deliveries
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Shares of Tesla stock slid by as much as 3.11% to $209.57 per share ahead of tonight’s earnings report

Tesla Motors has changed the time of its earnings call today, pushing it back to 7:30 p.m. Eastern time. The automaker plans to release its earnings report at 5 p.m. Eastern today.

What to expect in Tesla’s earnings report

Consensus estimates for Tesla suggest the company will post earnings of 30 cents per share on $1.23 billion in revenue for the fourth fiscal quarter. That’s a slight decline from the 33 cents per share in earnings the EV manufacturer reported in the fourth quarter of 2013. It’s also a 60% increase in revenue, as Tesla reported $761 million in sales for the same quarter a year ago.

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Deliveries are also an important part of tonight’s earnings report. In November, the automaker guided for deliveries of 33,000 cars in all of 2014 (down from management’s initial guidance of 35,000), meaning it had to deliver more than 10,000 vehicles during the fourth quarter. That’s quite a lot for the EV maker at this stage of the game, but analysts generally think it’s possible. In 2013, Tesla delivered 22,477 cars, and in the first three quarters of this year, it delivered 21,821 cars.

Stifel expects a slight miss on deliveries

In a report dated Feb. 10, Stifel analyst James Albertine said he slightly reduced his delivery estimate for the 2014 fiscal year. His new estimate goes to 31,750 cars, which suggests 9,929 cars delivered during the fourth quarter. The reason for this reduction is mainly related to the launch in China, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk blasted their top China executives and threatened to fire them for the poor sales in the country.

Tesla management did say that demand in other parts of the world will probably more than offset the problems in China, but Albertine thinks this is more of a long-term comment rather than one aimed at deflecting near-term delivery concerns.

Also Albertine stated that the deliveries of some P85 editions of the Model S could have been delayed until late in the quarter, thus theoretically pushing back one or two weeks of deliveries into the current quarter.

The Stifel analyst also expects investors to be looking for updates on how Tesla is progressing with the construction of its gigafactory. He thinks the automaker may even be ahead of its plans, which could imply good things for the timing and ramp of the Model 3.

Albertine believes good news on either or both of these two topics could push investors to see Tesla as being worth $400 a share, which is his price target. He also reiterated his Buy rating on Tesla stock going into tonight’s earnings report.

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