Shares of Tesla (TSLA - Get Report) closed down 3.79% to $287.59 Wednesday. The stock has been under pressure over the last few sessions, mostly caused by an internal email stating that, among other things, fourth-quarter earnings were likely to come in below third-quarter results.
While these quarter-to-quarter fluctuations aren't the worst bits of news in the world -- at least Tesla's turning a profit now -- it did cause a 13% drumming in the stock price. More importantly, though, that beating took Tesla stock below a key level as its 2019 convertible bonds come due March 1. With a conversion price of $359.88, Tesla will have to satisfy the $920 million debt in cash should the stock price close below that mark upon maturity.
Tesla stock has been weak because of this news. But it doesn't help that RBC analyst Joseph Spak cut his price target and lowered his rating Wednesday morning. The analyst now rates Tesla as an underperform, down from market perform, and has cut his price target from $290 to $245. As of Tuesday's close, that implies almost 20% downside to the stock price.
Spak made points similar to those of Goldman Sachs analyst David Tamberrino, who published several negative arguments a day earlier and maintained his sell rating and $225 price target.
Spak notes that even if Tesla is producing 1 million Model 3 units at an average selling price of $55,000 with a 12% EBIT margin and doesn't raise equity by 2025, the stock is still richly valued. Regarding the stock price, he said, "at least one-third of today's price is an Elon premium."
"The current valuation already considers overly lofty expectations," he added.
Spak did acknowledge some of Tesla's recent moves -- like lowering its vehicle prices by $2,000 -- as becoming more realistic. Still, he reasons that "the current valuation already considers overly lofty expectations."
Evaluating Tesla Stock
There's no doubt that when compared to other automakers like General Motors (GM - Get Report) , Ford (F - Get Report) , Fiat Chrysler (FCAU - Get Report) , Daimler (DDAIF) and others, Tesla trades at a very high valuation. But to base its valuation off six years from now seems to discount Tesla's future catalysts.
For instance, what about the Model Y, Tesla Semi, Roadster, Model Y and Tesla Pickup? Even discounting the Solar Roof, what about Tesla Energy? There's also the company's autonomous driving software. You could make an argument that other automakers will have similar technology -- like GM -- but at the same time, we're seeing valuations for Alphabet's (GOOGL - Get Report) (GOOGL - Get Report) self-driving unit Waymo reach as high as $175 billion.
Investors can debate the value of Tesla's autonomous unit, but it's certainly not zero. Same with its energy segment. Creating energy storage systems for municipalities as well as residential dwellings create an efficient and independent energy system for customers. That creates value, even though it's not the most talked about unit within the company.
I'm not saying Spak is necessarily overlooking any of this. Only that it's very, very difficult to make projections this far out, particularly with a company like Tesla.
As for the stock price, a weekly close below the 200-week moving average would be discouraging. A close below the $250 level would be alarming, though. Notably, if Tesla were to probe the latter levels, it would bring the stock price down near Spak's price target.