Tesla Posted a Record $718 Million Loss, But Investors Are Giving Elon Musk a Pass for Now
Tesla earnings have become a kind of quarterly soap opera, with equally fervent camps of bulls and bears arguing over whether the automaker will fail or become an era-defining success story.
For the second quarter, the results were mixed but the bulls seemed to win the upper hand. Tesla reported a record net loss of $718 million, which was larger than what analysts had been forecasting. Revenue of $4 billion was slightly above expectations.
Despite the higher loss, Tesla shareholders gave the company and its founder Elon Musk a pass, with Tesla’s stock rising as much as 13% to $335.28 a share.
Adding to the drama, Musk also began the Q&A portion of the earnings call with an apology for his behavior in Tesla’s previous earnings call in May.
Back then, Musk derided analysts for asking about capital needs, dismissing their queries by calling them “boring, boneheaded questions” and then taking a series of more sympathetic questions from a small shareholder who was well-informed about Tesla and bullish on its future.
“I’d like to apologize for being impolite on the prior call. There’s no excuse for bad manners,” Musk said Wednesday. “There are reasons for it: I’ve gotten no sleep and I’m working 120 hour weeks. Still there’s no excuse for being impolite.”
More than that apology, however, shareholders seemed relieved to see that there was enough evidence in the earnings report that Musk is delivering on recent promises he made: namely, that Tesla is meeting is goal of producing 5,000 Model 3 cars per week, and that Tesla was on track to be GAAP profitable starting in the third quarter. The company also manufactured an additional 2,000 Model S and Model X vehicles per week.
Tesla is planning to increase Model 3 production to 6,000 per week for the next few quarters and then reach 10,000 per week “as fast as we can.”
“In July 2018, Model 3 not only had the #1 market-share position in its segment in the U.S., it outsold all other mid-sized premium sedans combined, accounting for 52% of the segment overall,” Tesla said in a statement reporting earnings. “The popularity of Model 3 is a true testament to the product.”
Adding to intrigue regarding the earnings report, Elon Musk was tweeting about Atari easter eggs included in the next Tesla software update 90 minutes before the report was scheduled.
Once the report came out and Tesla’s stock began to rise, Musk returned to Twitter, not to discuss financials but to encourage video-game developers to apply to the company.
Before the earnings report, Tesla’s shares had fallen 6% in past year amid concern that Model 3 production delays would weigh on its finances and force it to raise more cash.
Skeptics, including hedge funds that held short positions in the company, doubted whether Musk could reach his targets for profitability and Model 3 production, given his tendency to make overly optimistic projections for the company.