Seeing as Tesla (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc Report has walked back pretty much every piece of financial guidance it previously made for 2019, any respectable sell-side analyst must in good conscience throw in the towel on this stock.
CEO Elon Musk had previously said the electric-car maker would have profits every quarter going forward. But now it turns out there will probably be losses for every quarter going forward (at least for a while). No growth ought to mean no growth investors -- so who's left to own this thing?
The biggest thing that I (who am admittedly shorting the stock) took away from Tesla's earnings call Wednesday evening was that Musk volunteered to describe what he expects for the company in 2020. Nobody asked him about 2020 and he didn't have to speak about 2020, but Musk offered anyway that he believes that after a "very strong" fourth quarter this year, 2020's first half will be "tough" for the company.
Yes, Musk also predicted that the second half will be "incredible." But if you're a sell-side analyst, a fund manager or a growth investor and Tesla's CEO just told you that 2020's first half will be very weak, what should you do? You can't possibly own this stock now. You must get out.
If you like the "idea" of Tesla -- the company's "story," Musk himself or his plans to develop travel to Mars -- you can certainly buy TSLA back in mid-2020 if you'd like. But you can't own this stock until then, because it sounds to me like Musk admitted there will be little or no growth for the next four quarters. So, you have to get out for the next 12 months.
This reminds me of March 2000 and what turned out to be the dot-com boom's peak. The DSL broadband-equipment stocks had all been soaring, but I didn't understand that fund managers would sell these stocks down not just 20% or 30%, but over 90% in many cases. There was a total loss of momentum as soon as fund managers no longer viewed these stocks as growth stocks.
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I think the equivalent moment has come for Tesla. There's little or no revenue growth; we saw that in 2019's first half when revenue flatlined over 2018's second half. And now, I think we can expect to see four flat quarters (at best) in a row.
It was already clear that analysts were going to cut their 2019 second-half estimates for Tesla, but at least you could post an "aspirational" 2020 estimate if you were a cheerleading bull. But now that Musk has said that 2020's first half will be very weak for TSLA, you can't even do that.
Instead, the street will now be looking for four weak quarters in a row -- probably all of them with losses and just about near-zero revenue growth.
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At the time of publication, Wahlman was short TSLA, although positions may change at any time. Wahlman also regularly attends press conferences, new vehicle launches and equivalent, hosted by most major automakers.