Elon Musk says Tesla's plan to not raise more cash 'may change'

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty ImagesElon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla.

Elon Musk appeared to soften his previous tone regarding tapping fresh capital on Tesla’s third-quarter earnings conference call Wednesday evening.

“We do not intend to raise equity or debt, at least that is not our intention right now,” the CEO said in response to a question from Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas. “That may change in the future, but the current operating plan is to pay off our debts and not to refinance them, but to pay them off and reduce the debt load and overall leverage of the company.”

While not a total reversal of course, it is a striking difference to his comments earlier this year, when he said “I specifically don’t want to” in regards to a cash infusion.

Tesla’s free cash flow increased to $US881 million in the third quarter, with net income hitting $US312 million, it reported Wednesday. That’s despite repaying $US82.5 million worth of loans, and the company says it expects the trend to “remain at least flat in spite of our plan to repay $US230 million of convertible notes in cash during Q4.”

Still, Wall Street analysts are worried Tesla’s balance sheet could still be under pressure as the company seeks to pay off its $US9.6 billion in long-term debt.

“Financing needs are likely satiated for the next 6 to 9 months, but we remain cautious on liquidity as management needs to execute on its plans to retire and not refinance its debt,” Cowen analyst Jeff Osborne said in a note to clients. He raised his price target to $US250 following the earnings report.

Adam Jonas, the Morgan Stanley analyst concerned about a need for a capital raise on the call, also remains cautious given Musk’s answer.

“We continue to question sustainability,” he told clients Thursday, adding that the bank expects roughly $US500 million of free cash flow for the fourth quarter.

Shares of Tesla were set to gain roughly 10% at the opening bell Thursday following the earnings report.

More from Tesla’s third-quarter earnings:

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