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Jan 30, 2019

Tesla earnings shrink as Musk cuts jobs to protect profitability

Tesla reports Q4 earnings miss despite better-than-expected sales

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Tesla Inc. (TSLA.O) reported earnings that fell short of analysts’ estimates as Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk cuts jobs to keep the electric-car maker profitable.

  • Adjusted net income was US$1.93 a share for the fourth quarter, trailing analysts’ average estimate for US$2.10 a share. Tesla’s earnings are coming under pressure as it introduces cheaper versions of the Model 3 sedan to keep deliveries growing.

Key Insights

  • Free cash flow was about US$910 million, up from US$881 million in the previous three months. With Tesla now past a period of “production hell,” its balance sheet is looking healthier. It now has about US$3.7 billion in cash and equivalents.
  • As Tesla takes the Model 3 global starting this quarter, it’s warning that North American deliveries of the all-important sedan may decrease from the last three months of 2018. Production of cars destined for Europe and China began this month.
  • It’s also going to be trickier for Tesla to get cars into consumers’ driveways quickly. Because of longer overseas transit times, the company is expecting to deliver about 10,000 fewer vehicles than it produces this quarter.
  • Tesla had US$793 million in customer deposits as of the end of 2018, down from US$906 million in late September. Musk is likely to face questions from analysts about how many would-be customers are holding out for the US$35,000 version of the Model 3 that the company has long promised -- and hasn’t introduced.

Market Reaction

  • Tesla shares fluctuated after the close of regular trading and were little changed as of 4:33 p.m. Wednesday in New York.

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  • Musk expects to deliver between 360,000 and 400,000 vehicles this year, up as much as 65 per cent from last year, he wrote in a letter to shareholders. He and Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja didn’t give a breakdown by model.