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May 23, 2019

Battered Tesla shares on roller-coaster ride after Musk's bullish email

McNamee: 'I wanna cry about Tesla'

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Even for oft-volatile Tesla Inc. (TSLA.O), Thursday morning will go down as one of the more memorable roller-coaster rides.

Another bearish bit of analyst commentary about the Model 3 maker facing demand woes sent the stock tumbling as much as 5.6 per cent in early trading. A little more than an hour later, shares were up 3.6 per cent after a bullish email surfaced on a Chinese social media forum that Elon Musk had supposedly sent to employees.

It looked as though the rally would be short-lived. The shares again went negative until several media outlets, including Bloomberg, confirmed the authenticity of the email with sources who asked not to be identified.
Musk’s memo countered days of escalating doubt that Tesla will hit its vehicle delivery targets this quarter, with the chief executive officer writing that the company has a “good chance” of exceeding the record 90,700 deliveries achieved in the last three months of 2018. He also said Tesla has received more than 50,000 net new orders this quarter.

Multiple analysts had cast doubt on Tesla’s ability to deliver at least 90,000 electric vehicles this quarter and 360,000 this year. Gene Munster, a managing partner of venture capital firm Loup Ventures, became the latest to question whether the company will reach those numbers late Wednesday when he told Bloomberg Television that 2019 is “going to be a difficult year.”

In a note Thursday, Munster trimmed his estimate for how many vehicles Tesla will deliver this year by about 10 per cent to 310,000, short of the minimum 360,000-unit forecast by Musk. Munster lowered his expectation to factor in the risk that China may slap Teslas with tariffs, and that consumers in the world’s largest electric-vehicle market may boycott the brand as the trade war with the U.S. intensifies.

“It’s been difficult for analysts and investors to guess what demand is for this year,” Munster told Bloomberg TV in a follow-up interview Thursday.

Tesla shares were up 0.9 per cent as of 12:30 p.m. in New York. The rally follows a 25 per cent plunge over the course of just 12 trading days, with the shares finishing lower in all but one of those sessions. At least six analysts have cut their price target since the stretch began, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

For Musk, 47, it’s the second time in a week that an email he’s sent to employees leaked to the media. Tesla shares closed at the lowest level in almost 2 1/2 years on May 17 after the CEO wrote that the company would be conducting a “hardcore” review of expenses to protect the carmaker’s cash.

Before the deliveries email surfaced, Munster said that Musk needed to be “more judicious” when setting expectations for what Tesla will achieve.

It’s “unlikely that we’re going to get that anytime soon, so whatever he says, dial it back by 40 per cent and that’s probably the right answer,” Munster said of Musk.

--With assistance from Jonathan Ferro, Josh Eidelson and Tom Lavell