Tag Archives: Elon Musk

WTF Just Happened: Gold Forms A Bottom And 420-Time For Elon Musk

Perhaps the most baffling aspect of the Elon Musk “Funding Secured” tweet is the number of financial media outlets and so-called “analysts” that are taking it seriously. The idea is a complete joke. Any valuation in excess of potential asset value minus the debt and other liabilities (included in “liabilities” will soon be a flood of lawsuits). Some bucket-shop stock analysts issued reports explaining why a buyout of Tesla could occur at an even higher price. We’re beginning wonder if the Tesla buyout idiocy will mark the end of the valuation insanity that has permeated the entire U.S. stock market…Meanwhile, hedge funds assumed a record short position in Comex paper gold futures. This along with the worst sentiment toward the precious metals since early 2001 and late 2015 suggest the potential for a bottom in gold, silver and mining shares.

In this episode of “WTF Just Happened?” we discuss these issues plus offer a view on the correlation between the dollar-price of gold and the $/yuan (WTF Just Happened is a produced in association with Wall St. For Main Street – Eric Dubin may be reached at  Facebook.com/EricDubin):

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Tesla is on its way to bankruptcy.  I don’t know how long it will take that to occur but the Company will be insolvent if it can’t raise money before the end of the year.  I explain why a buyout of the Company is next to impossible in the next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal and offer several ideas for using put options to express a bearish view of Tesla stock.

Visit these links to learn more about the Investment Research Dynamic’s  Mining Stock Journal and Short Seller’s Journal.   

Elon Musk Turns U.S. Capital Markets Into A Complete Farce

“Nobody, when they’re looking at a privatization, dangles this way and does this sort of teasing dance of choreography. Somebody only does this when they are trying to distract us with a shiny new thing…There’s a lot of problems here. He can’t afford to build the new factory that he says he wants to build. This is a distracting strategy like attacking the press” – Jeffery Sonnenfeld, Yale School of Management on CNBC

Elon Musk has turned the U.S. capital markets into a complete farce. He’s made of mockery of the fact that the regulators no longer enforce rule of law. The idea that any financial institution on earth would fund the largest leveraged buyout in history at a level that values Tesla on par with Volkswagen – the world’s larges car manufacturer – is beyond absurd.

We should hope and pray that some truth-seeking entity will hold Musk accountable for what is likely a highly fraudulent claim. Or, then again, perhaps Musk took one of his flying automobiles and went to Mars on Monday to “secure funding” from his Martian financiers.

A careful dissection of Tesla’s latest 10-Q reveals a Company with negative working capital and an unmanageable level of debt and other fixed commitments headed for eventual insolvency.

Beyond ranting about the obvious here, I’m posting an insightful, if not poignant, comment from a friend and colleague:

I am pretty amazed/disgusted that we haven’t come to terms (as a society) with social media. It is in this grey area where leaders of Government and corporations can walk a tight rope of truth/fiction without any consequence or regard for the affect of the immorality and illegality.  Narcissistic psychopaths like Musk utilize cult of personality to harness the power of the hopelessly ignorant looking for a guru; looking for a reason to justify their worst impulses and implausible fantasies. From a social science standpoint: it is interesting. From a person of the society: it is mindblowingly frightening.

Tesla’s Phony Quarterly Numbers

Tesla reported its Q2 numbers this past Wednesday. It reported $4 billion in revenue, up 43.4% year over year. Its net loss widened to $742 million, or $4.22 per share (some of you may have seen lower net loss and loss per share numbers but the numbers I’m using come directly from the SEC-filed 8-K, which means those are the “official” numbers).

The market was excited and the stock soared because the cash “burn” was lower than expected and Elon Musk reassured everyone that the Company is still on track to show positive net income and cash flow in Q3 and Q4. I can assure you that you have a better chance of standing on the eastern shoreline of Egypt and seeing the Red Sea part for Moses.

The cash balance of $2.23 billion that is presented on TSLA’s balance sheet was higher than expected – with an alleged implication that TSLA burned less cash than expected. But this was accounting sleight of hand. TSLA achieved this feat by stiffing its suppliers as evidenced by the ballooning of the accounts payable entry on the balance sheet. From Q4 2017 to Q1 2018, TSLA’s accounts payable rose $213 million, or 8.2%, to $2.603 billion. But from Q1 to Q2 this year, TSLA’s payables rose $427 million, or 16.4%.

In other words, TSLA slowed down the rate at which is pays suppliers by a considerable amount, which enables TSLA to hold the cash it owes to suppliers on its balance sheet, thereby giving the appearance of a higher cash balance.

Netting out customer deposits of $942 million, TSLA actually only has $1.29 billion in cash. That said, there are some other balance sheet items on the liability side of the balance sheet that increased and will require the use of cash, like “other long term liabilities,” that I won’t be able to analyze until the 10-Q is filed, which is when I can study the footnotes. Furthermore, the 8-K does not contain a full statement of cash flows – it’s missing the details of the “cash from operations” – which will enable me to determine other areas on its balance sheet TSLA stretched in order keep cash net of deposits above $1 billion.

All of that said, I have discovered a clever manner in which TSLA has rigged its financials to look better than they should by keeping cash expenditures it will have to incur off the income statement and balance sheet in Q2. To my knowledge, I am the only analyst who has figured out this devious form of accounting manipulation.

The commentary above is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal, which was released today.  Tesla shares several traits with Enron and some parallels with Bernie Madoff.  Elon Musk is a gifted con-man.

In the latest Short Seller’s Journal I layout the methodical manner in which Musk’s financial architects manage to defer cash expenditures for the purpose of making the Q2 financials appear better than expected.  I suspect the scam was used to set-up an attempt to raise more money later this year.  You can learn more about my newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

The Demise Of Tesla: We’ve Seen This Movie Before

Enron was a product of the late 1990’s dot.com / tech bubble.  Similar to Tesla’s “production tent,”  Enron would set entire floors of buildings to look like elaborate energy trading rooms.  The operations were nothing more than a fraudulent shell game, set-up for the benefit of Wall Street analysts and journalists.

Bear Stearns was a product of the mid-2000’s mortgage bubble.  It created catastrophically leveraged mortgage-backed securities hedge funds that would inevitably collapse.  The managers of these funds kept these funds alive by hiding positions from upper management and fraudulently over-marking the value of the underlying assets, which eventually proved worthless.

And now, Tesla’s path to demise seems quite similar to the recent implosion of Theranos.  Theranos was biotech company which collapsed after it was revealed that it had fraudulently promoted claims about its blood testing technology.   This story resonates in Tesla’s decision to skip a critical brake test in order to meet a superficial production goal last week.  Anyone who takes delivery and pays for a Tesla Model 3 is putting themselves and their families at risk.

While not widely reported, there has been a rapid exit of high level executives, including the chief engineer, who resigned the day after Elon Musk issued the command to skip the brake test.  After this story broke, one of my subscribers emailed me:  “I design and build (from my bare hands) electrical testing equipment for the automotive industry. Plants shutdown rather than let their stuff go out the door untested.”  Now we know why the chief engineer bolted from the Company.

The proprietor of the Adventures  In Capitalism blog published a comparison between Tesla and Theranos.  He focuses on the recent erratic behavior of the CEO and potentially lethal production decisions implemented:

The question is, who would want to invest new capital when Tesla is now admitting to knowingly selling cars without testing the brakes in order to hit some arbitrary one week production target? When a company admits that it will sacrifice vehicle quality and even risk killing its customers to win a twitter feud and start a short squeeze, regulators must step in. The question is; what else has Tesla done illegally to hit its targets? We know that Tesla long ago passed over the ethical threshold of selling faulty products that have killed people—what other allegations will soon come to light? Elon Musk demanded that Tesla stop testing brakes on June 26. Doug Field, chief engineer, resigned on June 27. Is this a coincidence? Of course not—Doug Field doesn’t want to be responsible for killing people…

You can read the rest of this here: Tesla Is The New Theranos

The only ingredient missing from the chain of events that precedes the complete collapse of Tesla is a table-pounding, frothing-at-the-mouth “buy” recommendation from CNBC’s Jim Cramer.

Tesla (TSLA): “It’s Not A Lie If You Believe It”

TSLA stock has levitated on statements from Elon Musk that TSL A would be cash flow positive by Q3, an announcement that TSLA would roll out a Model Y “crossover” SUV by November 2019 and the reiteration of ambitious Model 3 production milestones. All three will never happen.

Elon Musk’s attorneys must be giving Elon the same advise given to Jerry Seinfeld by George just before Jerry took a polygraph test: “Elon, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it it.”

It looks like reality is catching up to TSLA and TSLA is going into a death spiral.  An amended complaint to an existing class-action suit against the Company, Musk and the CFO was filed. The suit accuses Musk and the CFO of knowingly making false and misleading public statements with regard to production and quality targets for all of TSLA’s models. The amended complaint includes testimony from several former employees.  The amended allegations give the lawsuit far sharper teeth than the original court filing. When I find the time, I’m going to read the entire court filing.

In addition, recently a judge denied Elon Musk’s request to dismiss a class-action suit stemming from TSLA’s acquistion of Solar CIty (which is turning into a disaster) against Musk and TSLA’s board

As for TSLA generating positive cash flow by Q3 and avoiding the need to raise more money, I found an analysis of TSLA’s current liabilities which shows TSLA’s current cash position is worse than it appears.

At the end of 2017, TSLA showed a cash balance of $3.3 billion. Of that, 25% or $840 million is refundable customer deposits. Another $1.3 billion is current payables which are due over the next few months. This includes $753 million owed for equipment, $378 million in payroll and $185 million in taxes payable. Netting out customer deposits and the accrued payables, TSLA’s net cash position at the end of 2017 was $1.3 billion.

TSLA’s current assets minus current liabilities showed a working capital deficit of $1.1 billion at year-end. TSLA generates a cash loss on every vehicle sold. It’s highly likely that TSLA’s cash net of current cash payable obligations is now well under $1 billion. Elon Musk must have taken LSD before he made the announcement that TSLA would be operating cash flow positive and would not need to raise money in 2018.

Although nothing would surprise anymore in this market, I just don’t see how TSLA breaks higher from the current chart formation. Lawsuits are piling up. Last week the NTSB kicked TSLA out of its participation in the NTSB’s investigation of that fatal accident involving a Tesla in California. The NTSB stated that TSLA violated agency protocols. Consumer Union, the consumer advocacy division of Consumer Reports, issued a report last week which stated that Tesla needs to improve the safety of its autopilot. On top of all of this, I’m convinced that Elon Musk, based on his erratic and volatile behavior, is certifiably insane.

Is Tesla Drowning In Liabilities?

Tesla must be burning cash a lot more quickly than the rate at which its operations were burning cash in the first 9 months of 2017.  Through the first three quarters, TSLA had incinerated $570 million, or roughly $2 million per day.  Its Model 3 sales are horrifically below Musk’s bold predictions.

Now Tesla is going take part of its “leased” vehicle portfolio and attempt to raise $546 million by letting Wall St. “engineer” the lease payments into an Asset-Backed Bond (ABS) deal.  The problem with Tesla’s leases is that any of the leases issued before June 30, 2016 contain a “resale value guarantee” from Tesla.  This  is a “put option” issued to the lessee of a Tesla vehicle in which the value of the “put option” is worth significantly greater than the resale of the vehicle.  And the resale value of a Tesla is declining rapidly on a daily basis, along with value of the entire used car inventory across the U.S.

The ABS bonds are structured from leases thrown into a pool of leases – the Trust – that will be used to fund the bond payments .  One of the problems with this deal are the leases held by Tesla that contain a guaranteed re-sale value of the leased vehicle.  To the extent that cars turned in under the guaranteed value payment  are worth less than the value of the guarantee, the bond trust takes the hit.

I noticed that the resale value of a Tesla S model is dropping like a stone they are almost giving away 2 year old models for free. Who wants to be a guarantor of that? – comment from a reader in Sweden

However, I would bet my last nickel that the residual values in the plain-vanilla leases that will be tossed into the trust exceed the market value of the underlying vehicles.  In this case the bond trust also takes a capital hit.  I have a hunch that Elon Musk is trying to pull a fast one on yield-hog bond fund managers by transferring leases with overvalued residual values embedded in them into this ABS Trust.

With so much printed Central Bank currency sloshing around the financial system, I’m sure if the underwriters dress this pig with enough lipstick in the form of a high coupon, the deal will get done.  I have to believe that this trust will have tobe  over-collateralized by a significant amount, meaning that the implied value of the leases tossed into the ABS Trust exceeds the par value of the Trust by a considerable amount.

But it  makes me wonder why Tesla is coming back to the capital markets with the equivalent of a “furniture sale” in order to raise high-cost capital given that the Company raised nearly $2 billion in August – just five months ago.  How much cash has Tesla’s operations incinerated since the end of September?  Judging from the collapse in Model 3 sales, it smells like Tesla and Elon Musk are beginning to get desperate to keep the lights on.

“Tesla Is A Big Pile Of Sh_t”

Jason Burack (Wall St for Main St) interviews notable Tesla bear, Mark Spiegel. As readers know, I’m in agreement with Spiegel in thinking Tesla stock is worth zero.   In fact, I’ve stated publicly that I’m trying to decide if the world’s greatest Ponzi operator award goes to Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk.  Spiegel makes a great case that it belongs to Musk.

– “They’re losing a massive amount of money and actually showing negative scale [losing more as sales grow]. They’re losing more money on an operating basis with almost no direct long-range electric car competition. A massive amount of that competition rolls out at the of this year and then hugely in 2018, 2019 and 2020.”

– “No sustainable proprietary technology.”    There’s several companies with better technology but they don’t promote the way Musk promotes.

– “Every business Musk has is based on Government subsidies. And they still lose money. He’s the only guy who can pull down billions in Government subsidies and still lose money.”

– “Every business Tesla is in is a shitty business. And when you put together a collection of shitty businesses, you don’t get a good business – you just get a bigger pile of shit”

This is an interview that is a must-listen if you own TSLA and want to hear the truth about the Company and Musk:

TSLA’s market cap now stands at nearly $61 billion. It burns over $1 billion per year in cash and its financials are riddled with what would have been considered accounting fraud 20 years ago. It sold 72.6 thousand cars in 2016. Compare this to GM, which has a market cap of $51 billion and sold over 3 million cars in 2016, and Ford, which has a market cap of $44 billion and sold 2.5 million cars in 2016.

To say that the action in TSLA’s stock price and its market cap is “insane” does not do justice to the word in “insane.” TSLA is the “poster child” for the mass hysteria that fuels investment bubbles. The problem with shorting TSLA is that the hedge funds are chasing its momentum higher, as investors embrace the negative news events as a reason to pay more for the stock. As such, it’s hard to see a catalyst that will “correct” the price, like with retailers for instance. TSLA, along with AMZN, is one of the rare stocks which will continue levitating until it doesn’t – like a Roman candle that eventually burns out falls to earth.

In my opinion, the ride down will be worth the pain and blood-loss of sticking with a short bet on TSLA, which is why I continue to buy small quantities of put options that have been expiring worthless. I know at some point I’m going to catch a $100+ reversal in TSLA stock which will more than make-up for the small losses I’m enduring in the puts while I wait for that big pay-off.

Using puts protects me from the unknown magnitude of upside risk from shorting the stock. Plus, I don’t have to make a “stop-loss” decision because I don’t have the theoretic “infinite upside” loss potential that I would face shorting the stock. With my loss capped, I can hang on to the puts through expiration. With a stock like TSLA, often a stop-loss exit is followed up by reversal to the downside, leaving the short-seller without a short position.

The written analysis just above is from the Short Seller’s Journal. In that particular issue a couple weeks ago I outlined a put option strategy that will keep you exposed to the eventual $100 down-day in the stock that is going to come. You can learn more about the Short Seller’s Journal here: LINK.

On another note, Fidelity – specifically the OTC Portfolio mutual fund (TSLA is 9.2% of the fund’s assets) and the Contrafund – own 15% of the stock.  When TSLA stock ultimately fails, those funds will be hammered.  If you have money in either of those funds, foretold is forewarned.

Piper Jaffray, Tesla and Creative Analysis

Piper Jaffray stock analyst, Alexander Potter, in what may be the most idiotic stock research report I’ve ever read, issued a buy recommendation on Tesla (TSLA) stock that is completely devoid of any rational arguments or coherent thought:  “before investors can follow our advice and buy TSLA shares, they need to employ a ‘creative’ valuation methodology…”  Anyone who suspends disbelief and reads that report is more dumb for having done so.

Creative valuation methodology?  I had to read that 3 times before I could believe that he put that in the conclusion of his report.  That sounds like something used in conducting human investment analysis tests on stock analysts who have taken LSD.  The CIA might be interested in experiments like that.

While issuing his bullish assessment, Potter at the same time reduced his FY 2017 earnings estimate from $0.42/share to a loss of $4.83.  I shocked that this analyst was forecasting positive net income at all.  But a reduction in an earnings forecast of that magnitude would seem just too embarrassing to report.  Maybe Potter was indeed experimenting with LSD when he was thinking about his investment thesis.

As it is, TSLA uses “creative” accounting methodologies in recognizing “revenues” that would make Amazon’s Jeff Bezos blush with embarrassment.  The Company burned over $1.5 billion in cash in 2016 in its business operations.  This was covered by the most permissive credit and equity markets in U.S. history, which handed over a net $2.7 billion to the Company in  2016.

While the Piper “analyst” claims to have gotten to know the Company because he drove a Tesla around for seven months and met with Tesla’s IR team, he apparently eschewed real fundamental analysis in favor of “creative” methodologies.  The fact that TSLA’s actual vehicle deliveries declined in Q4 from Q3 was creatively removed from his hockey-stick earnings projections.

It will get really interesting  for Tesla when the  tax credits for the first 200,000 vehicle buyers expire. TSLA’s sales are being subsidized heavily by the U.S. taxpayer and yet the company has lost $1.5 billion on GAAP net income basis in which the “net income” was derived using a highly “creative” interpretation of GAAP accounting.   TSLA’s buyback guarantee, in which it has guaranteed the resale value on vehicles sold or leased up until August 2016, has already created a $2.3 billion future liability. Given the plunging prices in the used car market, it is likely that the true level of that resale guarantee is closer to $4 billion.

TSLA delivered 79k cars in 2016 while Ford delivered 2.6 million.  Yet the stock market creatively assigns a market value to TSLA that is about $5 billion higher than Ford’s.  It’s debatable whether or not Tesla will be able to start delivering its highly touted Model 3 before mid-2018 given TSLA’s track record of failure at meeting delivery schedules.

Quite frankly, what’s more amazing than Tesla’s ability to bamboozle investors into throwing more money at the Company’s cash inferno is the willingness of stock “analysts” like Piper’s Potter to release “creative” research reports that read more like “The Onion” than a responsibly prepared business model and projected financial analysis.

Tesla’s GAAP “book value” is listed at  $4.7 billion, or $32/share. Of that $4.7 billion, $3.4 billion is cash that will soon be burned away, leaving $1.3 billion in book value or $9/share. If we mark to market the car value guarantee, Tesla’s book value goes negative.  If we mark to market its $5.9 billion in PP&E, the book value becomes catastrophically negative.   The shorts who defy Elon Musk’s childish Twitter taunts and remain short will eventually make a fortune when reality inevitably seizes the stock market and takes “creatively” valued stocks like Tesla down their intrinsic value, which is close to zero.

Tesla Reports Another Fraudulent Quarter

Tesla created massive confusion in the financial reporting and analyst community by allegedly coming clean and report actual GAAP quarterly financial results for its 3rd quarter.  But of course, just like the entire U.S. Banana Republic, the use of extreme obfuscation, deceit, propaganda and lies once again is the norm with Tesla’s quarterly report.

TSLA’s use of revenue recognition, deferred revenue and operating leases and its definition of “free cash flow” are enough to create a dedicated forensic accounting case study at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, where I did indeed nearly ace a forensic accounting course.

I don’t have enough time to lay out all of specifics and I’m not getting paid to write this blog post – but suffice it to say that several items in Tesla’s financials this quarter serve as big red flag warning flares.  Of course, the market probably won’t care, as it seems that the market cap of a company’s stock is directly proportional to the grandiosity of the Company’s accounting abuse and fraud.  And there’s no one in DC to enforce the laws already in place that are designed to prevent this fraud because the guys running these companies make substantial contributions to the Establishment politicians – just ask Jeff Bezos and Hillary Clinton.

But I’ll point out some of the glaring problems in TSLA’s “GAAP” accounting based on cursory sleuthing.

First and foremost, in his description of the results for the quarter, Musk stated that “residual lease risk” exposure was 32% of deliveries, down from 36% in Q2.  But this is a highly deceptive metric.  IN FACT, deferred revenue as a percentage of total revenue for the quarter soared to 61.4% from 44% in Q2.  Deferred revenue is the amount of revenue that is subject to “residual risk” from leasing financing.  This number is found on the liability side of the balance sheet.  The deferred revenue liability account went from $558 million in Q2 to $1.4 billion in Q3.   This is a huge jump in amount of risk-infused lease-based financing used to generate sales.

In and of itself, using deferred revenue accounting to this degree is highly subjective and susceptible to fraudulent risk assumptions.   But the fact that Musk tries to mask the truth by using a bogus metric to make it seem like TSLA’s exposure to the residual risk embedded in the profoundly questionable leases used to generate revenues and unit sales is a loud signal that there’s fraud embedded in TSLA’s “GAAP” financials.

When you look at what is being reported as  “GAAP operating income” consider that a huge proportion of that income is subject to the risk of coming back at the company in form of “one-time” GAAP charges which result from having to reverse out a large portion of the “GAAP” revenues when the value attached to the cars that will likely come flying back at TSLA when the leases expire is substantially lower than the amount guaranteed by TSLA.     This “GAAP” presentation makes a farce of bona fide accounting standards.

Another huge red flag is the huge jump in accounts payable.  In June, accounts payable were 87% of revenues.   But by September, accounts payable were more than 100% of revenues.   The only reason TSLA would stretch out its payables like this is if it needed the cash.   Not paying bills for a company like TSLA is a source of free financing.   But this is an extreme slow-down in bill payments.  There’s no way to know for sure what’s going on, but something is wrong.

A third huge red flag is the way in which Musk throws around the term “free cash flow.”  His definition is just as fraudulent as Amazon.con’s definition.  At this point in time, because TSLA has only released an 8k which does not contain an GAAP statement of cash flows, there’s no way to know the amount of free or negative free cash flow attributable to TSLA’s operations.  That is, “free cash flow” in the context of the deceitful manner in which TSLA’s financials are presented.

Having said that, Musk states in the 8k that TSLA generated “positive free cash flow.”  No, Elon, you did not.  Buried in the 8k is a section titled,  “selected cash flow information.”  He lays out his definition of “free cash flow” showing $176 million defined as cash flows provided by operating activities less capex.   The GAAP definition of free cash flow, however, also includes debt repayment and other sundry items that drain cash.  We won’t know the full extent of these items until the 10Q is released.

However, TSLA reported that it payed down $178 million on its borrowing facilities.   Using GAAP free cash flow, this takes Elon free cash flow negative.  Furthermore, if TSLA had maintained accounts payable at 86% of revenues, this would have sucked another $324 million of cash from TSLA’s operations, leaving the Company with a free cash flow deficit of $326 million.

There’s a lot more going on with TSLA’s operations that is deceitful, if not outright fraudulent.   This is just the “low hanging fruit.”   At some point the capital markets will stop funding this fraud and that’s when the fun begins.   Of course, by that time insiders will have sucked $100’s of millions of wealth out this Company that will never be retrievable.  In just the last 12 months, insiders have unloaded 4.1 million shares, or roughly $860 million worth of stock.   Oh wait, there was one open market purchase of  stock by an insider of a whopping 1,394 shares.

It’s my view the idiotic shareholders who give money to TSLA deserve what they’ll get eventually.  But then again, many of them are sheeple who have placed trust in financial fiduciaries, like pension managers and investment advisors, to invest their savings.