All eyes will be on Tesla’s financials this Wednesday afternoon as the electric car company tries to show it can be cash flow positive (and maybe even turn a quarterly profit) as it acquires sister solar company SolarCity and spends heavily on expanding its car manufacturing.
As the company’s founder, CEO, and largest shareholder, Elon Musk, said in an email to staff last month, the quarter is “critical” for the company’s long term efforts. The company is trying to convince Wall Street that Tesla isn’t just a spending sinkhole, but that it has a healthy business that it can expand over the coming years. The 13-year-old company turned a modest quarterly profit once in 2013, and Musk has previously said that the company expects to be profitable at some point in 2016.
Getting into the black will be a difficult achievement. Tesla (TSLA) is in the process of growing its car production from delivering around 80,000 cars this year to 500,000 cars by 2018. That growth includes launching its $35,000 electric car, the Model 3, at the end of 2017, and requires building a massive battery factory outside of Reno, Nevada to supply batteries for the Model 3.
Tesla said in its last earnings report that it plans to spend $2.25 billion on capital expenditures this year, and it’s been increasing its operating expenses over the third and fourth quarters.
Part of the funding for its manufacturing and next car launch will likely come from another debt or equity raise, which Musk said recently won’t occur this year, but analysts think will likely happen at some point next year. Tesla already raised $738 million earlier this year in a stock sale to help fund its Model 3 development and factory expansions.
Given the potential equity or debt raise, Tesla needs to convince investors that it’s business is sound. Tesla’s stock is currently trading around $200 per share, down from a 52-week high of around $270 per share.
Earlier this month, Tesla was able to meet its quarterly car shipment numbers for the first time this year. And just a couple weeks ago, Tesla said it shipped a record 24,500 cars in the third quarter, beating estimates and reaffirming that it would be able to ship 50,000 cars in the second half of the year.
For more on Tesla’s third quarter car shipment numbers, watch:
Analysts predict that while Tesla will deliver a GAAP loss of 53 cents a share in the third quarter, it will report adjusted earnings of breakeven for the quarter. The company is expected to report sales of $2.34 billion for the quarter, almost double its $1.24 billion sales for the same quarter a year ago.
Here are four things to watch for in Tesla’s earnings:
1). The SolarCity Deal: Tesla and SolarCity (SCTY) shareholders plan to vote on the controversial merger on November 17, meaning this is Tesla’s last earnings before that important vote. SolarCity could report earnings on November 3rd.
Tesla’s third quarter earnings appear to be coming in a week early, and just days before a planned product announcement on Friday for a combined solar panel and battery product from the combined companies. Tesla and SolarCity are clearly trying to spend these last few weeks before the vote, convincing shareholders that both companies would have a major advantage once combined.
Given SolarCity’s large debts and the difficult residential solar panel business, it’s a harder sell to Tesla shareholders that SolarCity would be an asset. But Musk says the combined companies could eventually save $150 million through the union.
Expect Musk to tease the October 28 Tesla/SolarCity product launch in the earnings call, and possibly comment on the upcoming vote. Will there be any more surprises about the deal that he’ll try to slip in?
2). Profit vs. Accounting: Given Tesla’s strong desire to achieve adjusted profitability in the quarter, pay particular attention to the numbers that could get Tesla there. Fortune’s Shawn Tully recently reported in detail on a significant change that Tesla made to its accounting late last year that introduced the concept of “cash flow from core operations,” which makes the company’s cash flow look vastly improved. Will Tesla use this metric to show a potential positive cash flow or profit?
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3). Spending Spree and Fundraising: While Tesla could show a third quarter adjusted profit, the company still spent heavily in the third quarter and will do so again in the fourth quarter. Will it have spent more than expected? Will Musk give new details on when the company will want to raise more funds?
If Tesla does have a blockbuster quarter, it could be a good time for Musk to slip in more forecasts for spending and fundraising. In the past, Musk has said that Tesla’s massive spending could turn Tesla into a company worth $700 billion in a decade.
4). Factory Future: As Tesla plans to grow car shipments from 80,000 this year to 500,000 by 2018, the company will be building out its factory in Fremont, Calif., and finishing up its battery factory outside of Reno, Nev. Will there be any new info about the so-called Gigafactory, which was only about 14% complete when Fortune toured it this summer?