Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) shares took a dive Thursday after the electric carmaker reported lower-than-expected revenue and earnings. The stock shed more than $13.92, or 6.56 percent, to $198.88, in premarket trading (at the time of publication), the lowest level since CEO Elon Musk said last month that China sales were down in the fourth quarter.
“While other automakers are beginning to emulate Tesla in important respects, it is not lost on us that Tesla is in some ways beginning to look more like other automakers,” JPMorgan Chase & Co. analysts said in a note to investors on Thursday, referring to Tesla’s larger-than-expected capital expenditures (the money a company spends on upgrading or acquiring assets), which the bank sees rising toward levels that resemble much larger automakers.
Meanwhile, larger automakers are starting to enter the electric vehicle market at both the luxury and mass-market ends, which could check Tesla’s efforts to become the world’s largest producer of lower-priced electric cars, a market currently dominated by the Nissan Leaf. Electric cars make up less than 1 percent of the total automotive market, but demand is growing.
JPMorgan downgraded Tesla's stock from Neutral to Underweight on Thursday, which means it believes the company’s stock will perform below the automotive industry average for the next eight to 12 months. Tesla is expected to spend $1.5 billion in capital expenditures in 2015, higher than JPMorgan’s estimate of $900 million.
Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas, who is generally bullish on Tesla, said in a note Thursday that Tesla’s costs are “looking eye-wateringly high” and that the company is pushing the “insane button” on its capital expenditures. Nevertheless, the bank maintained its Overweight rating, which mean Morgan Stanley sees Tesla’s stock outperforming the industry average return. The bank sees the company’s shares doing well despite the challenges in this important transition year.
Tesla says it will sell 55,000 cars in 2015, including the Tesla Model X utility car due out by the fall, up from about 31,600 last year and about 22,500 in 2013. The company said Wednesday that deliveries, earnings, revenue, margins and operating expenses missed Wall Street estimates, while its expenditures are rising faster than expected.
Meanwhile Tesla Motors Director Kimbal Musk, Elon’s brother, sold 4,600 shares of Tesla on Monday, three days before the dismal earnings forecast, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission posted on Wednesday. The average transaction price was $214.64 for a total of $987,344. Company executives are granted stock options as part of their compensation that automatically vest according to a schedule and performance benchmarks. Kimbal’s pre-earnings stock sale was based on a plan adopted in March 14, 2014.