Tesla may seek more cash as it speeds to September target
Electric car maker Tesla said its mass-market Model 3 saloon car is on track for volume production by September, encouraging investors who see the avenue to profitability for the young company.
But the carmaker's operations continued to burn through cash, and ceo Elon Musk told analysts on a conference call that he may ask Wall Street for more.
"According to our financial plan, no capital needs to be raised for the Model 3 but we get very close to the edge," Musk told investors on a conference call. Tesla plans an additional $2bn (€1.9bn) to $2.5bn (€2.36bn) in capital expenses before the Model 3 launch and has $3.4bn (€3.21bn) cash on hand.
"We're considering a number of options but I think it probably makes sense to raise capital to reduce risk," Mr Musk said. He added that Chief Financial Officer Jason Wheeler, in his role for just over a year, will leave in April to work in public policy. He will be replaced by former Tesla CFO Deepak Ahuja, who was popular with investors.
Tesla's adjusted loss missed the consensus target calculated by Thomson Reuters, although there was an unusually large range of estimates due to confusion over accounting for the acquisition of solar installer SolarCity. Ivan Feinseth, director of research at Tigress Financial Partners, said Tesla "delivered the results the market has been expecting" that drove the stock from a year low of $167.84 (€158.69) last February to a year high of $287.39 (€271.73) last week.
By late spring or early summer, Mr Feinseth estimated, Tesla will likely raise more money, noting that today's highs could make it sooner rather than later. "You have to feed the ducks while they're quacking. If they came to the market now they would be well received," he said.
Up to Wednesday's close, Tesla's stock had risen 53.9pc in the last 12 months.
Many investors and suppliers have predicted Model 3 volume production would be delayed until 2018, but Tesla said it would produce over 5,000 Model 3s a week "at some point in the fourth quarter", and 10,000 vehicles a week "at some point in 2018".
Mr Musk reiterated that Tesla still planned to deliver 500,000 cars in 2018 and one million vehicles by 2020.
Tesla did not give its usual full-year delivery estimate, but said it expected to deliver 47,000 to 50,000 Model S and Model X vehicles combined in the first half of 2017.
The company did not give a Model 3 target for this year and declined to update a previous disclosure made last April that 373,000 advance reservations had been taken for the car.
"We're still in great shape," said Mr Wheeler, when asked about early demand for the car. The public might not see the final version of the Model 3 until as late as July, when limited production begins, Mr Musk said. Capital expenditures doubled in the fourth quarter to $521.6m (€593m) , as Tesla invests in its Fremont, California factory and its Gigafactory battery plant in Nevada.
Cash rose by $309m (€292m) to $3.39bn (€3.2bn), which includes funds raised from a share sale last year. SolarCity installed more than 20pc less solar in the quarter, as it focuses on profitability and cash over growth. Solar generation deployed fell to 201 MW in the fourth quarter from 253 MW a year earlier.
Tesla's net loss narrowed to $121.3m for the fourth quarter ended December 31. Revenue rose 88pc to $2.28bn (€2.15bn), beating estimates. (Reuters)