There are a lot of “Teslovers” out there these days. Much like opinions about the larger than life personality of Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors, you’re either a fan of the firm and its expensive, high-performance electric vehicles or you’re a skeptic, and in most cases there’s very little middle ground.
Ron Baron is a big Tesla fan
Although he did not mention whether he drove a Tesla, billionaire value investor Ron Baron commented in the interview that he believes Tesla Motors shares will “quadruple in five years.”
Baron says he is willing to put his money down on Tesla founder Elon Musk. “To do what he’s done so far boggles the mind. To revolutionize the way you’re making cars and spaceships at the same time.” Of note, Musk is also the founder and CEO of SpaceX, a private spacecraft firm.
On “Squawk Box” Friday morning, Baron readily admitted that Tesla stock is relatively expensive based on current earnings and revenue. But he says “…what you’re betting on is this company can be much larger.”
In recapitulating his investment thesis, the chairman and CEO of Baron Capital, highlighted the EV maker‘s projections for selling 50,000 vehicles this year, up to 80,000 in 2016, and aiming to put a half million EVs a year on the road by 2020.
Baron ran through the numbers: “Five hundred thousand cars a year in 2020 … that’s a business of $35 billion or $40 billion a year in revenue. Say they make $6 billion of operating profit before they spend to make themselves grow larger. That means that’s probably worth $120 billion [in market cap]. Now market value is about $30 billion, so it’s quadruple in five years.”
Keep in mind that Baron Capital, with $25.1 billion in assets under management, owns 1.3 million shares of Tesla at a unit price over time of about $218 each, making the total value of the position around $282.7 million.
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Baron is in the black on his investment so far, as the market value of Baron’s stake was close to $300 million as midday Friday at around $231 per share.
While acknowledging there will be notable competition in the EV market in the next few years from the likes of BMW, Apple and Google, Baron believes that Tesla has the fast track: “I think Apple will probably try to have some branded car,” and so will Alphabet’s Google, he says.
He goes on to say that he does not believe that traditional automakers will be able to accomplish what Tesla has done because of inertia in the C-suite.
Baron argues that by the time the senior execs who run the car manufacturing companies become CEOs, “they’ve had very great careers,” and don’t want to truly seek innovation, at least partly because their firms have tens of billions of dollars invested in factories tooled up to produce gas and diesel cars.
“They’re not paid to take [big] risk,” he said, but then insisted that the auto companies must take the risk. “The only way you’re going to have [long-term] sustainable transport is not by using hydrocarbons anymore but rather using electricity.”