Tesla returns to profitability and tops Wall Street's Q3 earnings expectations

AP Photo/Ringo H.W. ChiuTesla CEO Elon Musk.

Tesla posted a surprise third-quarter profit on Wednesday, sending shares surging by as much as 17% in late trading.

Here are the key figures:

  • Earnings: $US1.91 per share versus estimates of $-0.24 per share
  • Revenue: $US6.3 billion versus estimates of $US6.45 billion
  • Gross margin: 18.9% versus estimates of 17.7%

The company now says it expects “positive quarterly free cash flow going forward, with possible temporary exceptions” after it sank back to unprofitability earlier this year. “We continue to believe our business has grown to the point of being self-funding,” Tesla said.

Despite the return to profitability, quarterly revenues fell compared with the previous year for the first time since 2012.

Tesla said its progress in ramping up production of vehicles in China was ahead of schedule.

“We are already producing full vehicles on a trial basis, from body, to paint and to general assembly, at Gigafactory Shanghai,” it said. “We have cleared initial milestones toward our manufacturing licence and are working towards finalising the licence and meeting other governmental requirements before we begin ramping production and delivery of vehicles from Shanghai.”

Christopher Eberle, an analyst at Nomura Instinet, said “investors may view this as a turning point in the TSLA story,” given the stock’s after-hours surge.

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