For the first time in years, no one really has any expectations from Tesla as the company prepares to report second-quarter earnings on Wednesday after the markets close.
Officially, analysts anticipate a loss of $1.15 per share. But whatever. Tesla has rarely reported positive quarterly net income since its IPO.
The pattern is burn cash, baby, burn cash. CEO Elon Musk’s overarching goal is to accelerate Tesla’s growth, and its $30-billion-plus market cap is a reflection of that. Profits are, for now, irrelevant.
The cadence of Tesla earnings was actually starting to get predictable. Dismal financials were assumed, so attention shifted to vehicle deliveries and yearly guidance. But two straight years of delayed deliveries and guidance coming in at the very low end of its range had conditioned investors to patiently listen to what Tesla has to say and assume that the process will be repeated, just with bigger numbers.
But this quarter will inaugurate a new phase in Tesla’s story: the surreal phase.
That’s because Tesla is in the process of becoming not just Tesla the car company, but Tesla the conglomerate. The acquisition of SolarCity for $2.6 billion in stock, announced on Monday and expected to close in a few months (pending government approval and shareholder voting), will create a full-service green-energy solutions holding company. Electric cars will be joined with solar panels, which will be joined by energy storage, battery manufacturing, and charging.
If you want to live a greener life, Tesla will have you covered.
A baffling conglomerate
In the short term, this is going to make it impossible to figure out what Tesla is worth and what the financial rationale for buying into Musk’s vision really is.
SolarCity had lost half its market value since the beginning of 2016. Tesla’s lofty valuation is based on its prospects to be a major player in the transportation world of the future. Tesla Energy is just in its early stages of development. And the $5-billion Tesla Gigafactory has just opened — it’s completely unclear how long it will take Tesla, in cooperation with Panasonic, to crank up production.
Meanwhile, Musk has upped the timetable on delivering 500,000 vehicles annually, to 2018 from 2020. And the company has to both launch the $35,000 mass-market Model 3 in 2017 and begin fulfilling 375,000 reservations.
It all makes your head spin. Which challenge do you focus on? What’s the priority? Or does this all have to happen at once? Musk clearly thinks so — he just authored a vast, far-reaching manifesto, his “Master Plan, Part Deux.”
Tesla as a carmaker was never easy to understand. But Tesla as a sustainable energy, manufacturing, and transportation conglomerate will be baffling. But we’ll have to get used to it, and it all starts on Wednesday.
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