TESLA INC (TSLA) SHORTS: ASSAULT AND BATTERY

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sign (unprofitable; check, negative cash flow; check). The now combined Tesla entity carries a substantial $6bln in debt. Tesla has a market cap of $43.9bln, now greater than Nissan and honing in on fellow American Ford. Tesla has issued secondary equity on several occasions, the last being for $1.7bln in proceeds ($1.4bln + Greenshoe exercise) at $215 in May 2016. The stock rallied over 6.5% the week following the announcement, with the proceeds earmarked for Model 3 production with deliveries by the end of 2017 and bringing forward Tesla’s 500,000 vehicle unit build plan 2 years from 2020 to 2018 (as in next year, 2018). Patient investors should ready themselves for another secondary in 2017 (more debt on the heels of the SolarCity combination is not likely in my view), as fundraising has been an annual affair since 2012 and profitability can still not be seen with a Hubble telescope. Tesla’s market cap is so enormous at this juncture $3bln + might be in order to keep the transaction costs down. Tesla has 161mm shares outstanding and a float of 129mm shares. 26.6% of the float is held short, part of the reason for the recent pin action. Elon Musk owns over 20% of Tesla stock personally (all other insiders own 1.3% in aggregate, this is the Elon Musk show, have no doubt). The largest institutional investor is FMR LLC, better known as Fidelity Investments who own 13% of Tesla’s equity.

The Gini Coefficient at Tesla is off the charts, making it ripe for the UAW to eventually turn California plants. What potential gains Tesla might realize on battery cost via a well executed Tesla Energy launch can more than be given back through higher labor cost. Starting wages are $17/hr. in the Tesla plants (Toyota Motors Manufacturing average is US$39.50) on 12 hour shifts. Elon has been quoted as saying “changing the world is not a 9-5 job”. There is a reason that North American auto jobs have migrated from Canada to non-union southern USA and on to Mexico. If Tesla wants to retain its silicon valley nucleus it will have to eventually pay left coast wages, unionized or not.

Tesla’s book value per share is $17.03, hence it is trading nearly 12X book and 5x sales. Tesla does not own much in the way of proprietary technology. The Gigafactory is plug and play Panasonic technology. Elon once characterized patents as “a lottery ticket to a lawsuit”. The Japanese, by way of contrast, own 1/3 of the world’s o/s patents and it is the Japanese firms that dominate is areas such as ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Programs), electrification and emission control systems. Musk arguably has a narrow moat, with venerable global competitors breathing down Tesla’s neck across the broadening business lines of Tesla Inc. Rather than focussing on the pedestrian, largely outsourced means of propulsion (i.e. the battery) shareholders may have been better served in the long run (in the short run they have done just fine!) by focussing on the semiconductors and other high end technology components that is crammed into high-end, modern, connected EV’s (5x the amount of a “low end” vehicle, contributing over a 1/3 of the vehicles all-in cost).

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Tesla Inc. has proven to be a difficult short, even for tenacious hedge funds, let alone lowly individual investors like moi. My TSLA T-acccount is close to flat on my 3rd short attempt (short @ $260 into “revenues”) with the 1st try profitable, 2nd a loser (1/3 of 1st trade profit) and the 3rd, so far, offside. Q4 2016 numbers are out after the close this Wednesday the 22nd with analysts expecting and adjusted loss of $0.51/share which would be a marked improvement on the loss of $0.87/share booked in Q3 2016. SolarCity is enough of a wild card to lead one to suspend opinion, but it is certainly not outside of the realm of possibility that the Q3 loss is further eclipsed.

Hopefully 3rd times a charm, but I have no plans to overstay with my short position and a stop loss at $300 is in place. JCG

Follow me on Twitter @firehorsecaper

Tesla short is the fellow on the right, to be clear.

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