Tag Archives: TSLA

Tesla’s Questionable “Free Cash Flow” Claim

In last week’s earnings release, Elon Musk made the claim in the headline release that Tesla generated $614 million of “free cash flow,” which he defined as “operating cash flow less capex.”  Additionally, in the 2nd paragraph of the earnings release Musk states that, “As a result of this growth and operational improvements, we generated $614 million of free cash flow (operating cash flow less capex) in Q2.”

Notwithstanding that fact that Tesla has slashed its capex spending to what appears to be the bare minimum, and setting aside Musk’s claim of “operational improvements,” a careful dissection of the cash flow statement, balance sheet and footnote disclosures calls into question Musk’s assertion that the Company generated $614 million of “free cash flow.”

The graphic above is from the operating cash flow section of Tesla’s cash statement. I use the earnings release version to make comparisons YoY for Q2 and Q1 2019 easier (the 10Q only shows the YTD 6-month numbers in the cash flow statement). You’ll note that Tesla’s capex was $30 million less than Q1 2019 and 59% below the capex spent in Q2 2018. Strange for an automotive OEM that is building a factory in Shanghai, developing a new model (the Model Y), reconfiguring its OEM facility in the U.S. to accommodate the new model and planning an OEM facility in Europe.

However, the big source of Musk’s alledged “free cash flow” comes from the “changes in operating assets and liabilities.” The netted number shows $287 million provided by changes in the various balance sheet accounts. But a detailed analysis of the accounts that provided this “cash flow” would call into question the reliability of Musk’s assertion. In fact, most of the cash was generated from “accumulator” sub-accounts that can be found in the footnote disclosures. These accumulator accounts are liability accounts which account for near-term cash payment obligations which would have used up all of that “free cash flow” had Musk signed the checks to make the payments by June 30th.

The graphic above shows the liability section of Tesla’s balance sheet. I’ve highlighted the liability accounts in question.   The “accrued liabilities and other” account increased from Q1 2019 by $346 million, meaning that it contributed $346 million in cash to the “changes in operating assets/liabilities” number in the cash flow statement.  Most of this is a “current liability” for which Musk is obligated to make payments in the near term. Tesla does not disclose the breakdown of “accrued liabilities” in its 10-Q, but it shows the contents of this account in the 10-K.  In 2018, the two biggest items were payroll and taxes payable, which represented 21.4% and 16.6% of accrued current liabilities.

The second largest contributor to the “free cash flow” calculation was the change in “other  long term liabilities” from Q1.  The details of this account are disclosed in Note 9 of the 10-Q.  This account contains longer term cash payment obligations like “accrued warranty reserve” and “sales return reserve.”  Again, this is an “accumulator” account that accumulates future payment obligations.  This account increased by $180 million from end of March, meaning the accumulation of cash payment obligations contributed $180 million to the “change in operating assets/liabilities” account in the cash flow statement.

Finally, there’s “deferred revenue.” Deferred revenue for Tesla is derived from the portion of the revenue for each vehicle sold which is attributable to access to the supercharger network, internet connectivity, autopilot (LOL), full self-driving (LOL) and software updates.  In other words it represents some portion of the revenue which is paid up-front which is contingent on Tesla delivering performance obligations.  It’s revenue received but not earned.  It also means that Tesla did not recognize the corresponding expense that needs to “amortized” against this revenue source. Thus, it’s a source of cash.  This contributed $121 million in “cash flow” to Tesla’s Q2 “free cash flow.”  But in reality it’s not free cash flow.

The point of this analysis is that Telsa is on the hook to make cash payments on obligations and liabilities incurred well in excess of the amount to which Musk refers as “$614 million  of operating cash flow less capex.”  Most of the money – payroll, taxes, facility lease payments – will be due on or before the end of July.  Some of it will have be paid out of Tesla’s cash balance over the course of the next several months.  But to make the claim that Tesla generated $614 million of “free cash flow” is highly deceptive.

Tesla: Lies And Fraud Engulfed In Elon Musk’s Hubris

Elon Musk should have considered a career as a children’s fairytale author. He would have made multiples of his current net worth selling his amazing fantasies and optioning the movie and tv series rights. He’s spent the better part of the last few years spinning fantasies as a means of addressing the growing army of analysts and truthseekers who report the facts about Tesla. He’ll say anything in an attempt to drive the stock price higher. The “funding secured” $420 buyout fraud is just the tip of the iceberg, if not wholly emblematic of Musk’s desperation to succeed.

At the shareholder’s meeting on Tuesday Musk referenced an alleged shortage of batteries that was constraining the ability to make deliveries and to bolster his claim that demand is strong.  Of course, the facts say otherwise about demand (see this, for instance:  Q1, April, May EU deliveries) . The battery claim will serve the purpose of Musk’s excuse for falling short of his assertion last week that Tesla “might” set a record in deliveries.

As his remedy to the battery shortage lie, Musk said “We might get into the mining business, I don’t know, maybe a little bit at least.” In some ways, that statement is just as shocking as the “funding secured” tweet. Mining companies spend years and millions looking for mineable deposits of cobalt and lithium. Then if a company is lucky enough to find a deposit, there’s several more difficulties to overcome in order to get a mine operating. Musk’s assertion minimized the cost and effort required to “get into the mining business.” He made it sound like anyone can make it happen. It’s the definition of hubris.

The “mining business” pronouncement typifies the degree to which Musk will say anything to fortify his lies – his fraudulent narrative – surrounding Tesla’s inability to execute a business model successfully. The fact that journalists, the financial media and Wall Street analysts refuse to hold Musk accountable for his chicanery enable its perpetuation. The victims are the people who die in car accidents connected to the unregulated mechanical failures with Musk’s products and the investors who are blind to his deceit.

It’s mind-blowing to me that the Musk/Tesla faithful continue to follow him off the cliff. His track record of failure to deliver on promises is unparalleled in history. In truth, beneath the facade of fraud and fairytales, is a poorly run business operation that bleeds billions in cash and will never achieve true profitability. The Model 3 is produced in a glorified Coleman tent, for god sakes. Make no mistake, the GAAP “profits” reported in 2018 were nothing short of outright and blatant accounting deception. Anyone who still believes those numbers is living with their eyes wide shut. Anyone who takes Elon Musk at face value is either tragically naive or catastrophically stupid.

But then again, Tesla and Elon Musk is the poster-child for the degree to which the U.S. economic and political system has gone down the rabbit hole and has become an empty shell of greed-driven fraud and corruption…

Is Musk Trying To Sell Tesla’s Stock Price Or Automobiles?

TSLA had yet another bad week, closing down $19 (9%) from the previous Friday’s close. Last week every attempted bounce in the stock was shortable on a daytrading basis. Currently Tesla’s shares are trading at $188. It would likely be a lot lower if it weren’t for Musk’s repeated “leaked” emails loaded with dubious production and delivery claims, with both barrels pointed directly at short-sellers.

A second “leaked” email appeared on Wednesday, as the stock was getting ready to take another deep plunge, in which Musk asserts that the employees need to “catch up on deliveries” in order to have a “successful quarter.” Speaking of catching up on deliveries, whatever happened with the 10,000 vehicles that Musk claimed were “in transit” at the end of Q1…? This analysis posted by @boriqato is a priceless “de-coding” of the Musk emails.

In between Musk released a report that he was gearing up to start producing the chimerical Model Y in the Fremont facility, in addition to consolidating the production of the S and X onto one production line.  Nothwithstanding the complications involved with reconfiguring the factor floor to produce 2 models on one line,  hidden behind the concept is that fact that the move would be cutting in half the production rate of each model.  Why would he do this if he’s running behind on deliveries?

Curiously absent from the news release was any estimates of the cost to retool the factory, purchase the equipment required to produce the Model Y and the manner in which the expense – which is enormous  – would be funded. Given that there’s currently 20 lawsuits outstanding filed by vendors and service providers against Tesla seeking several million dollars in claims against unpaid invoices for services provided, it would appear that the Company is cash-strapped despite the recent capital raise.  (Note: I sifted through several of the filings  – many are honest mom and pop businesses trying to make a living – it’s quite sad that Musk feels entitled to stiff the businesses which are helping him proliferate his fraud)

Regardless of the veracity of the production numbers in the “leaked” emails to employees, the new order and Q2 delivery assertions are likely Musk’s standard fraudulent misrepresentations. In fact, on Saturday I saw a report from one of the analysts who posts his research on Twitter (@fly4dat). The data he tracks for Model 3 deliveries in Norway, Netherlands and Spain – three of Tesla’s largest European markets – show a stunning decline in deliveries (the data comes from official sources which track VIN registrations).

Based on his extrapolation of Q1 and April deliveries plus the plunge in deliveries across all models globally, it looks like Tesla will be lucky to reach Q1’s 63,000 deliveries. Certainly we would have to suspect fraudulent reporting if deliveries come anywhere near Musk’s claim that Q2 deliveries could reach 90,000. Furthermore, Tesla’s Models S and X are now getting crushed in Europe by sales and deliveries (VIN registrations) of the Audi e-tron and Jaguar IPace.

Tesla was forced to slash the price of both the S and X this past week for the third time in three months. Unquestionably, the price cuts reflect the collapsing demand. More likely, Musk scripted the email and its “leaks” for the purpose of juicing the stock price in pre-market trading in an attempt to stimulate hedge fund and retail daytrader momentum chasers and trigger a short-squeeze.

The leaked email on Friday had the intended effect – for about an hour – as the stock shot up to as high as $199.60 from $181. The stock closed at $195.46. The second leaked email on Wednesday – not so much. The stock opened briefly higher but is now down over $2 from Wednesday’s close. It’s trading at a level not seen since the end of November 2017. The Musk/Tesla mystique is unraveling.

The email events, along with all of Musk’s circus acts, begs one simple question: Is Musk trying to produce and sell automobiles or is he simply attempting to pump the stock price of a failed business model?

Every Bounce In Tesla Stock Can Be Fearlessly Shorted

Elon Musk sent out an internal email to employees on Thursday in which he makes the highly dubious claims that the Company has 50,000 new orders for the Model  3,  the Company has a “good chance” of exceeding Q4’s record deliveries and the production of the Model 3 is close to 1,000 per week.

Regardless of the veracity of the production numbers, the new orders and Q2 deliveries assertions are likely Musk’s standard fraudulent misrepresentations.  From all of the data that can be gathered from official sources which track deliveries and VIN registrations globally, sales of all three Tesla models are falling off a cliff.  The recent price-cuts announced confirm the sales reports (eventually the Law of supply/demand/price prevails).

More likely, Musk scripted the email and its “leak” for the purpose of juicing the stock price in pre-market trading trading on Thursday morning in an attempt to stimulate hedge fund and retail daytrader momentum chasers and trigger a short-squeeze.

The leaked email had the intended effect – for about an hour – as the stock shot up to as high as $199.60 from $181.  The stock closed at $195.46.  This morning, the bubble-promoting financial media transformed lies embedded in the email into reports that Tesla was on track for record deliveries in Q2.  The stock ran up in pre-market from $196 to as high as $203.71.  As I write this the stock is trading below $191.

Elon Musk is obsessed with fighting the shorts rather than running a business and proving the shorts wrong. The funding secured debacle was more than a mistake – 1) it reflected desperation 2) it was highly illegal but our Government no longer prosecutes the crimes committed by billionaires.

The “leaked” email is another example of Musk using social media in an attempt to manipulate the stock price and punish short-sellers.  He’s emboldened by the fact that SEC has made it clear that it has no interest enforcing securities laws on Musk.  The public is on its own –  those for whom the laws are meant to protect (unsophisticated daytraders and the investors in  recklessly managed public mutual funds like ARK) are the ones who get hurt the most.

The problem faced by Tesla is that, in order to generate sales, Musk is unable to charge a high enough price to cover the all-in cost of designing, producing and delivering his cars to the end user. That’s why TSLA bleeds so much cash – it’s that simple.  Furthermore, he should have never issued debt to bridge the funding gap until it was guaranteed that the business model was truly profitable. It’s the same problem all these unicorn businesses face (NFLX, W, CVNA, LYFT, UBER, etc ad nauseum).

Tesla is now headed toward “zombie” status as both its business and its stock price limps toward and off the cliff.  As evidence, all of the stock analysts at firms involved with helping the Company raise $2.7 billion ($2.4 billion net) just two weeks ago  have suddenly become bearish on the story. Morgan Stanley’s Andrew Jonas – snake oil salesman extraordinaire – has publicly set a “downside” price of $10.  However, in a non-public conference call with clients, Morgan Stanley’s cross-asset trading group has made the case that the stock is worthless.

That the stock is worthless has never been an issue for me.  The more interesting question regards the ultimate value of the junk bonds, which are currently “priced” in the low $80’s. But this is based on small trades –  $1mm-2mm face value crosses and investment advisors at boiler room operations like Wedbush dumping 10 bond lots into client accounts. We used to play this game with ill-fated junk bonds that were artificially priced to high until a big seller capitulated when I traded junk bonds in the 1990’s.  More likely the  ultimate chapter 7 liquidation value of the unsecured debt on Telsa’s balance sheet is  well below 20 cents on the dollar.  In other words, short away every time the stock price spikes up on rumors or on desperate attempts by Musk to squeeze the shorts.

More Evidence Tesla Is In A Death Spiral

Reuters  report in which the news service discovered that almost all of the solar cell production at Tesla’s solar factory in Buffalo, New York is being sold overseas, primarily to a large Asian buyer.  Tesla’s Solar City business was given $750 million in State subsidies to build the plant in NY in exchange for employing at least 1,460 people and spending $500 million per yer in the State over 10 years.

The factory employs far less than the 1,460 required and the State has no hope of ever seeing the $500 million per year. The factory has become little more than a solar cell production facility for Panasonic paid for by U.S. taxpayers.

Panasonic produces the solar cells in the factory that were supposed to be used in Solar City’s solar panels.  The problem is that Solar City’s sales are approaching zero.  In California only 21 Solar City roof systems are connected to the State’s three investor-owned utilities as the end of February.  Panasonic is seeking to use the Buffalo plant to fulfill demand for U.S. made solar sales from foreign buyers (foreign solar manufactures can then export the solar panels back the use duty-free).

Earlier this year Panasonic announced that it was suspending plans to expand capacity at Tesla’s Gigafactory. It also suspended planned investment in Tesla’s Shanghai Gigafactory. The decision to curtail investment in Tesla’s U.S. Gigafactory was based on declining sales in the Models S and X and on Model 3 sales which are running below plan.   Panasonic’s Tesla EV battery business had losses exceeding $181  million in its fiscal year that ended in March.  Panasonic was likely not interested in repeating that experience as a “partner” in Tesla’s Shanghai operations.

What’s interesting about the two situations described above is that, more than anyone outside of Tesla’s corporate suite, Panasonic has an up close inside look at the truth behind Tesla’s operations and financials.  It’s quite clear that Panasonic is in financial loss containment mode with respect to its relationship with Tesla.  In this regard, Panasonic is signaling that Tesla is in deep trouble operationally and financially.

Panasonic’s withdrawal from its relationship with Tesla reflects the same critical information about Telsa as the steady stream of high level executive departures over the last year, the rate of which accelerated over the last 4-6 months.  Clearly the message is that Tesla is now in an irreversible death spiral.

Just for the record, I believe that Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley used the recent stock and convertible bond offering to suck fees out the deal that would help offset the likely losses the two banks will incur when Musk inevitably defaults on loans he owes to both firms.  It cost Tesla $300 million to purchase derivative protection against the potential shareholder dilution affect if Tesla’s stock were to rise the conversion price of $309 in the new converts.

But those two firms know that Tesla is going to hit the wall and that the stock has no chance of sniffing anywhere close to $309 from now to eternity. It’s highly likely that Goldman and Morgan Stanley forced this hedge structure on Tesla to rake in the $10 to $20 million in fees skimmed on the derivatives used for the hedge.  It was nothing more than vultures who are closest to the carcass grabbing the choicest cuts of meat.

Ironically, Morgan Stanley’s analyst issued a ”worst case” $10 valuation on Tesla. Unless the analyst is a complete idiot with little experience in distressed situations – which is possible – the $10 dollar valuation is Morgan Stanley’s “code” for, “the stock is worthless if Tesla has to file” (which it will sooner or later).

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.   

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.

TSLA Down 19% – $72 – In Eight Days

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 occurrence. Using puts protects me from the unknown magnitude of upside risk from shorting the stock. Plus, I don’t have 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.

As we saw on Friday, TSLA stock can reverse to the downside quite abruptly and sharply. I can guarantee that some number of shorts covered as TSLA was soaring over $370, leaving them with no position when the stock reversed, closing at $357. I don’t want to recommend specific puts to use but I can recommend giving yourself at least four weeks of time. If I were putting on a new put position today, I would probably buy a very small quantity of the July 7th $340-strikes. If TSLA sells back to the $310 area before expiry, which could easily happen as $310 is where the last 2-week push up in price began, the puts would have an intrinsic value of $30. The current cost is about $10.

TSLA reminds me of Commerce One (CMRC), a B2B internet company that went from $10 to $600 in a very short period of time in late 1999 – 2000. It eventually went to $0. I shorted and covered small quantities of stock starting around $450. I was fortunate to have been short from the high $500’s when it finally topped out a $600. The volatility of this stock was extraordinary but persistence and “thick skin” paid off.

The above commentary is from the Short Seller’s Journal. Subscribers who liked the idea have been short TSLA June June 12th, when the stock opened at $359. You can’t time the top or bottom with a stock like TSLA, but you can make a lot of money if you get 2/3’s of the ride down. You can learn more about the Short Seller’s Journal here:  LINK

YTD General Electric has been one of the 3 worst performing Dow stocks.  I presented GE as a short idea In the January 29th issue.  I said it would be a boring but no-brainer short.  So far it’s down 17.5% from that issue.  This has more than doubled the return on an SPX long position in the same time period.  Maybe it’s not so boring…

Gravity Rules: End Of The Bubble Is In Sight

“Even the intelligent investor is likely to need considerable willpower to keep from following the crowd.

The quote above is from Ben Graham, considered to be the father of value investing. Graham followed the crowd in 1929 and lost a small fortune for himself and his investors. Graham collected his learning experience from that disaster and eventually wrote, “The Intelligent Investor,” which is considered to be the one of the best investment books ever written. Warren Buffet enrolled at Columbia to study under Graham. Graham’s teachings formed the foundation of modern money management theories. To this day it is considered the value investor’s “investment bible.”

Wall Street is incentivized to sell the idea that stocks only go up. When I started on the junk bond desk as a salesmen (before switching to trading), I was told my job was to “reach into the portfolio manager’s pocket and take as much money as you can from his pocket and put it into your pocket.”

Wall Street greed has been around as long as stocks have been trading (the NYSE was founded in 1792). But it’s hard to blame stockbrokers for the damaging effects of greed. Stock-peddlers are like well-paid psychologists. They take advantage of human greed. Without investor greed, the stock brokerage business would be considerably smaller than it is today.

A stock bubble can’t exist without investor greed. It starts with greed. It moves into the “bubble” phase when greed is consumed by hysteria. The U.S. stock market has moved into the “hysteria” stage. This would be the point at which the bubble has almost reached maximum inflation. The upward movement in stocks is dominated by a handful of the stocks that, for whatever reason, are moving higher at the fastest rate of levitation. The graphic on the next page shows visually what “bubble to hysteria” looks like.

I reached the conclusion the stock market has moved into the hysteria stage by spending time studying the “Five Horsemen” (AAPL, AMZN, NFLX, FB, MSFT) + TSLA. Even during periods of the trading day when the Dow and SPX are go red, most or all of those six stocks remain green, sometimes moving higher while the broad indices move lower. It’s incredible to watch real-time.

“It’s not to late to catch a ride on the FANG rally” was a headline seen on CNBC last week. This is the type of hysteria that is reflected in the media at bubble peaks.

In the image above (click to enlarge), the graph on the left is the NASDAQ index since the election (from Jesse’s Cafe Americain). The graph on the right is the price-path that occurred during the Dutch Tulip Bulb mania of the 1630’s. You can see that both graphs go vertical. The vertical stage is driven by hysteria in which investors are terrified of missing the next move higher. It also ends with a decline, the rate of which is typically stunning.

The push higher in stocks like AAPL and AMZN is irrational, but TSLA has been infected with outright hysteria.

The worse the news on Tesla gets, the more quickly the stock seems to move up in price. Early in the week last week, Triple-A (the Auto Club group) announced that it was going to raise the its insurance premiums on Tesla cars by as much as 30%. A highway loss data study revealed that Tesla’s vehicles have higher claim numbers and repair costs vs. other vehicles in Tesla’s category. The Tesla S model claims were said to be 46% greater than the average number of claims for similar vehicles. Servicing those claims cost twice as much. The X model car reported a 41% higher crash-rate than similar vehicles and cost 89% more to repair.

In addition, it was reported on Monday that Toyota had unloaded the last of its remaining stake in Tesla before the end of 2016. It marked the end of a collaboration between Tesla and Toyota that began in 2010. Toyota announced that it plans to release its own fleet of long-range mass produced electric vehicles by 2020. Despite this blow of negative news about Tesla, the stock powered up over 8% last week before a late-day sell-off in the 5 Horsemen + Tesla inflicted a $19 reversal in TSLA’s stock price from its high Friday to the close. My puts, the June 30th $317.50-strikes, traded from Friday from a low of $1.06 to close at $2.40 on the bid side.

The graph below shows the price-path of TSLA’s stock since the election. Note that the graph looks very similar to the graphs of the NASDAQ/Tulip Bulb mania. In the 1800’s, writer Charles Mackay wrote a highly acclaimed book called, “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” in which he presented his studies on crowd psychology and how it leads to financial manias, among other destructive events. The chart below reflects “crowd” madness as it applies to TSLA stock (the inset price-box from last Thursday morning) – click to enlarge:

While the NASDAQ has appreciated 22% since the election, TSLA’s stock, on deteriorating fundamentals, has shot up 191%. 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 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 meteor 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 occurrence. Using puts protects me from the unknown magnitude of upside risk from shorting the stock. Plus, I don’t have 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.

As we saw on Friday, TSLA stock can reverse to the downside quite abruptly and sharply. I can guarantee that some number of shorts covered as TSLA was soaring over $370, leaving them with no position when the stock reversed, closing at $357. I don’t want to recommend specific puts to use but I can recommend giving yourself at least four weeks of time. If I were putting on a new put position today, I would probably buy a very small quantity of the July 7th $340-strikes. If TSLA sells back to the $310 area before expiry, which could easily happen as $310 is where the last 2-week push up in price began, the puts would have an intrinsic value of $30. The current cost is about $10.

TSLA reminds me of Commerce One (CMRC), a B2B internet company that went from $10 to $600 in a very short period of time in late 1999 – 2000. It eventually went to $0. I shorted and covered small quantities of stock starting around $450. I was fortunate to have been short from the high $500’s when it finally topped out a $600. The volatility of this stock was extraordinary but persistence and “thick skin” paid off.

The above analysis and commentary is from the latest <ahref=”http://investmentresearchdynamics.com/short-sellers-journal/”>Short Seller’s Journal, in which I present a “Big Short” mortgage derivative stock that will eventually drop close to zero from it’s current price in the mid-teens.  You can find out more here:  Short Seller Journal info.

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.