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Aug 21, 2018

Tesla investors brace for news as Morgan Stanley removes rating

Can Elon Musk better serve his company by changing how he works?

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Tesla Inc.’s (TSLA.O) drama took a new turn when Morgan Stanley removed its rating and price target on the stock, a turnabout from analyst Adam Jonas’s longtime bullishness on the electric-car maker. Less than a week ago, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. took a similar step because it’s advising Elon Musk on his effort to take the company private.

Morgan Stanley didn’t elaborate on the reasons for its move, and Tesla and Jonas didn’t immediately return voicemail and email messages seeking comment. The analyst, who had the equivalent of a hold rating on Tesla and a price target of US$291, last downgraded the stock in May last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The saga started two weeks ago with Musk’s bombshell tweet saying that he was planning to buy out some Tesla investors at US$420 a share and had secured funding. The board later said that it hadn’t received any formal offer from Musk, and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund -- the investor that Chief Executive Officer Musk has described as a linchpin of his plan to take Tesla private -- is reportedly considering buying a stake in another U.S. electric-car company.

The confusion has started eroding the trust even of long-time bulls.

Earlier Tuesday, Consumer Edge analyst James Albertine cut his rating on Tesla to equal-weight, from overweight, citing uncertain outcomes from regulatory inquiries and potential penalties, as well as Musk’s ability to keep serving in such a broad capacity. This is his first downgrade of the stock since beginning coverage in July 2016, according to Bloomberg data.

“It it is becoming more clear that he may be stretched too thin and could benefit from a CEO and/or COO hire,” Albertine wrote in a note to clients.

Tesla shares rose 0.3 per cent to US$309.38 at 9:38 a.m. Tuesday in New York.