Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) is set to release its third quarter earnings report after closing bell, and estimates are all over the place. The main reason is because the automaker is switching from a focus on non-GAAP numbers to GAAP numbers and adjusting how items are excluded. As a result, the after-hours comparisons will also be tricky. Another is the fact that Tesla is simply such a polarizing company with the bull and bear camps about as far apart as they can be.
Estimates range from a loss of 50 cents per share (Dougherty) to earnings of 40 cents per share (UBS). These numbers are particularly interesting because the first is from one of Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA)’s biggest bulls, while the latter is from one of its biggest bears. The revenue consensus stands at around $2 billion. We already know that Tesla’s vehicle deliveries doubled year over year in the third quarter.
Tesla (TSLA) switching to GAAP reporting
Dougherty & Company analyst Charles Anderson, who has an ultra-bullish price target of $500 on Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA), noted in his earnings preview report that comparisons for the automaker’s financials are probably going to be “muddled” for now. The switch to GAAP reporting means spreading vehicle revenue recognition over multiple years instead of all at the same time. The result is lower revenue and earnings per share. Anderson believes most analysts are waiting to adjust their estimates until after the automaker reports because it will be difficult to guess the ratio of leased to bought vehicles.
The analyst will be focused on automotive gross margins because of the extremes in the vehicle mix in terms of pricing on the 100kWh battery pack versus the 60kWh pack. He said the last quarter appeared to be marked by “a tug-of-war” between the lower and higher margin vehicles.
UBS analyst Colin Langan, who has an ultra-bearish price target of $160 on Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA), warned in his preview report that the automaker’s margins are still at risk, particularly due to the launch of the 60kWh models, which are priced between $8,500 and $9,000 cheaper than the75kWh versions even though he believes they should cost the same. He estimates a $2,500 lower average selling price and a reduction in the gross margin of up to 200 basis points
For the fourth quarter, Anderson is projecting $2 billion in sales and losses of 75 cents per share. He lists the consensus at $2.7 billion and earnings of 48 cents per share, although once again, the switch to GAAP account is probably throwing things off here.
Tesla (TSLA) investors still enchanted with Elon Musk
Investing.com‘s Senior Analyst, Clement Thibault believes Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) is preparing for another capital raise by focusing on near-term profitability, noting that it is unusual for the automaker to be focused on the short term. He adds, however, that the automaker’s immediate profitability “is irrelevant to its bigger ambition of producing half a million cars annually by 2018.” Further, he warns that investors should jump back on the rocket they took to outer space and return to Earth.
“While Musk’s other ventures–such as rockets for space travel–are undeniably innovative, it’s important not to get lost in the appeal of Musk’s fascination with all things futuristic,” Thibault said in an email. “For investors, it’s crucial to treat Tesla just like any other company. This means demanding deadlines be kept and promised targets achieved. The 5 percent share hike gained on the announcement of the company exceeding its sales target, after two misses, shows that investors are still in the honeymoon period with Tesla, handsomely rewarding successes without harshly punishing failures.”
Is time running out for Tesla (TSLA)?
Looking further out, Thibault sees the cards as essentially being stacked against the EV maker with competition on the rise and its own success working against it.
“Time is not on Tesla’s side. To begin with, asking customers to wait at least two years for a car they ordered now is perilous, since an infinite number of variables can alter a customer’s purchasing decision during the ensuing two-year period. This is especially true of the Model 3, which at $35,000 is aimed at the regular driver, whose financial situation is often a lot less stable than that of the wealthier cohort Tesla has been targeting until now with its higher end cars such as the Model X and Model S.”
Shares of Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) rose by as much as 0.11% to $202.57 before tonight’s report.