Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA): Doug Kass Says He’s Short

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Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) shares have continued to defy logic, and now one well-known hedge fund manager says he’s betting against it. Doug Kass of Seabreeze Partners Management says he’s betting against the automaker, which has become one of the market’s biggest momentum stocks.

Kass likes his Tesla short

Shares of Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) surpassed $200 a share this week and has climbed over 400% over the last 12 months. Investors who were shorting Tesla about a year ago have felt nothing but hurt since then, so Kass’ decision to short the automaker strikes many as being particularly bold. Writing on The Street, Kass said the more he thinks and writes about his short of Tesla, the more he likes it.

He did note that he doesn’t usually take a short position in stocks with high short interest. As of the end of January, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA)’s short interest had risen to 29.6 million shares, according to NASDAQ. At the end of October, short interest was at 21.4 million shares. According to data from FactSet, Tesla has approximately 122.6 million shares outstanding, which puts short interest at around 24% of outstanding shares.

Tesla boosted by Apple rumor

Shares of Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) received a boost after it was reported that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) had met with the automaker to talk about acquiring it. Kass said in his post that he doesn’t think it’s likely Apple will acquire Tesla.

He noted that many investors have failed to see that a year ago when the two companies spoke, Tesla’s shares were valued at $50 a share, which was 25% of today’s price. At that time, the automaker was capitalized at $6 billion, compared to its current capitalization of $24 billion.

Options player bets against Tesla too

Kass isn’t the only one placing a bearish bet on Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA). CNBC reports that a “major options player” made a bet that the automaker’s stock would plummet to $50 a share by next January. The firm reported bought 2,000 January 100 / 50 one-by-two put spreads in Tesla for $3.50 apiece on Tuesday in one of the day’s largest options trades.

That put spread enables an investor to buy one downside put and sell two lower-strike puts against it in order to cut costs. The maximum amount the investor loses is the money spent to make the trade. The investor earnings the maximum gain if shares drop to the level of the two puts which were sold.

The trader reportedly spent $350 per contract 2,000 times, spending $700,000 in premium, which is the maximum loss. If shares of Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) fall all the way to $50, the trader sees $9.3 million in profits. However, that would mean that the automaker’s stock loses 75% of its value in less than 12 months. In order to break even on that trade, the stock would have to decline to $96.50.

Analysts who spoke with CNBC note that this sort of bet goes beyond just a bearish outlook on today’s earnings report. He said it’s more of a long-term bearish bet against Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA)’s fundamentals.

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