Tesla stock has received multiple bearish analyst reports since the SolarCity deal was first announced earlier this year, and now that shareholders have approved it, there’s another price target cut. This time it’s from Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache and team, who resumed coverage of Tesla stock and cut their target from $290 to $215 per share based on the SolarCity acquisition.
Meanwhile JPMorgan analysts met with General Motors executives last week and say that the meeting reinforces their Underweight rating on Tesla stock. Also one of the few near-optimists left, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas, looked into ways the EV maker can fund the Model 3, which is widely seen as being essential to its future.
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Getting more conservative on Tesla stock
In a report dated Dec. 12, Lache and team said they continue to rate Tesla stock as a Hold after adjusting their price target to $215per share. They actually seem quite bullish on the automaker because they feel that it is well-positioned to derive benefits from surprising growth in the EV market. They expect EV costs to converge with the costs of vehicles with internal combustion engines.
JPMorgan analyst Ryan Brinkman and team are bearish on Tesla, in contrast with the Deutsche Bank team. After meeting with General Motors, they reiterated their Overweight rating on GM stock and Underweight rating on Tesla stock in a research note dated Dec. 9. They believe GM’s Chevy Bolt will pose a great threat to Tesla’s first mass-market EV, the Model 3.
The reason is because major automakers such as GM are pricing their EVs for high volumes rather than profits. Volumes will subsidize the more lucrative internal combustion vehicle portfolios from the perspective of regulatory compliance related to the number of zero emission vehicles they must sell to comply with regulations. Thus, Tesla will gradually lose one important revenue stream: sales of Zero Emission Vehicle credits to other automakers.
However, the Deutsche Bank team also calls Tesla’s expansion plans “complex and highly capital intensive.” Lache and team feels that the automaker’s dependence on the investment community can’t be overstated, as they look for another $2.5 billion in cash burn, or $1.5 billion after adjusting for lease borrowing, before it will become cash flow positive. Any missteps will weigh on Tesla’s liquidity and negatively impact investor confidence. Thus, the risks associated with buying Tesla stock remain high.
Lache and team remain cautious on SolarCity after assessing the path for the business to generate cash for Tesla based on the recent changes to its business model. The plan now involves shifting to a greater proportion of system sales, monetizing customer revenue and cost savings, which they do see as plausible but with great risks.
They estimate SolarCity as being worth only $15 per share, based on a sum of the parts. That includes the company’s current deployed solar portfolio, which they estimate is valued at around $1.4 billion or $8 per share of Tesla stock. Including debt, an assumption of zero future growth and a discount rate of 12%, they peg the value of SolarCity’s development company at $7 per share.
The decline in their price target for Tesla stock comes from greater conservatism surrounding the Model 3 ramp.
Will Tesla be able to fund the Model 3?
Both of the key drivers for Tesla stock next year are related to the Model 3, believes Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas. In a research note dated Dec. 9, he described the two drivers as the pre-launch and milestones on the Model 3 and how the automaker accesses capital to fund its plan. As a result, he describes the outcomes for Tesla stock as “highly volatile.”
Jonas expects the automaker’s fourth quarter results to resemble those from the third quarter in terms of strong growth and the possibility of positive cash flow from operations before capital expenditures. However, he also expects investors to remain uncertain about the company’s future and whether it can sustain its strong performance.
What does the Model 3 need?
The analyst doesn’t expect the Model 3 to be launched next year, despite Tesla’s goal of starting deliveries in the second half of the year. He expects the automaker to prioritize quality, cost, performance and life-saving technology over its timeline. Instead of a launch, he sees the release of more details about the Model 3 as being imperative for next year.
The two key attributes he expects the company to showcase are safety first, followed by driving pleasure. He explained that Tesla must get the Model 3 right and sees “teasing” the launch of the vehicle as “going hand in hand” with efficient funding of the strategy.
He has an Equal-weight rating and $242 price target on Tesla stock based on uncertainty around funding the Model 3 plan. Shares of the automaker rose by as much as 0.41% to $192.98.