Morgan Stanley just made a huge change to its worst-case scenario for Tesla shares

Elon MuskTEDTesla CEO Elon Musk.

A lot of analysts are racking their brains to figure out how to value Tesla’s multiple lines of business — cars, solar, energy, batteries — and determine whether the company deserves a market cap of more than $US50 billion.

Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas has put those struggles behind him and decided to focus considerable attention on businesses that Tesla hasn’t even developed yet.

In a research note published Monday, Jonas dug a bit deeper into this over-the-horizon opportunity:

Elon Musk … has been outspoken about his belief that the company could, one day, be worth more than Apple. … Could a highly successful Model 3 [launching later this year] and its progeny achieve this? In our view, no. Could an electric, autonomous semi truck achieve this? We don’t think so. Solar roofs… or Tesla Powerwalls? Not big enough. In our view, there’s only one market big enough to propel the stock’s value to the levels of Elon Musk’s aspirations: that of miles, data and content. When does Tesla make the leap to mobility? It’s been more than a year since Mr. Musk first alluded to Tesla Network and we’ve heard very little on the topic since that time. In our view, this quiet period probably cannot last much longer.

To get ahead of Musk and whatever announcement he makes, Jonas made a notable change to his worst-case scenario for Tesla shares, which have been on a tear since the beginning of 2017 and have been trading well above $US300 for some time, enabling profitless Tesla to exceed the market caps of highly profitable General Motors and Ford.

Jonas’ former “bear case” was $US50; now it’s $US175.

“Our bear case valuation is one of strategic value, as the level of strategic interest in the transportation sector has even taken us by surprise,” he wrote in his note. Essentially, Jonas thinks that a tanking Tesla is worth more than the liquidation value of the company, the basis for his previous bearish analysis.

TSLA ChartMarkets InsiderTesla has surged to start 2017.

The bottom line for Morgan Stanley

The bottom line here is that as Tesla has surged, Jonas had reacted by pushing his new-mobility thesis harder. To his credit, he’s always been the Wall Street analyst who adopted the most out-there ideas about where Tesla could go. Also to his credit, he’s willing to anticipate tremendous upside for a business that Tesla has yet to really create.

The critical notion is that Tesla will capture the mobility market in a way similar to how Amazon commercialized cloud computing. That, too, has become a huge business that didn’t exist until quite recently.

One thing to think about, of course: Jonas is simply being pragmatic. If Tesla shares were to swoon from their current level to $US50, it would be an epic collapse (admittedly after a run-up that’s been devoid of fundamentals). A market correction from the Monday close of $US359 or thereabouts to $US175 wouldn’t be so crazy. So Jonas is bringing his various targets into better alignment with the market’s reality — while continuing to advance his very big idea.

Get the latest Tesla stock price here.

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