Are you exploiting the power of negativity to its fullest?

As if a hundred short sellers screamed in agony* and suddenly fell silent

-“funding secured”

(*actually not, rather they celebrated, knowing the endgame had finally arrived; since knowing the facts rather than a wishful narrative, they understood the action was the last desperate act of a fraudster at the end of his rope)


Topic: why all the negativity?

Discussion: investors are on balance long biased and thus need an opposing view for balance

Conclusion: more pessimism (almost) always leads to a more balanced view

Bonus: a little tip regarding perspective, productivity and happiness (asking past friends for advice)


With a little help from my (previous) friends

You know the 150 people you actually know? They aren’t the same as they were 10 years ago. If you’re serious in your quest for a fresh perspective on things, write an e-mail and ask for your advice from your old network (I got the idea from the book about networking effectively, that Anna Svahn is writing as we speak).

Tip: start by expressing some appreciation and if possible provide something of value. Givers are more successful than matchers and takers. And appreciative people are happier.


The curious case of the lone genius giga fraudster

Let’s forget for a while that Tesla is burning a billion dollars every three months (e.g., cash flow was -1.3 to -1.4bn in Q2), and that it’s effectively running out of money by the turn of the year, unless it manages to raise new capital by then. Nota Bene, this isn’t controversial; it’s a financial fact.

Tesla has over 10 billion dollars in debt. Tesla holds a billion dollars in client deposits. Tesla has a negative net working capital of 3 billion dollars, giver or take. Tesla has 1 billion in convertible debt maturity effectively coming up by the turn of the year. Tesla has at least half a billion of its cash reserves where it can’t be accessed. Anyway, let’s forget about money running out in just a few months, since that’s not really an issue of cash flow turns positive.

Let’s forget that even though sales have increased at an impressive rate, so have losses and executive compensation. These are indisputable financial facts. If anything, the numbers are artificially positive due to creative accounting, not least by under reserving for service costs.

Let’s also forget about the quality issues with hastily manufactured tent “lemons”. Let’s also forget about Tesla’s failed attempt at disrupting the “stealership” model, consequently leaving clients to deal with maintenance, repair and spare parts themselves.

Let’s forget about the super high death rate of Tesla drivers.

Let’s also forget about all the weird and lofty claims Elon Musk spouts every opportunity he gets. I’m thinking about new car models, trucks, pick-ups, solar house roofs, solar car roofs, bricks, 1 USD/trip super-mach intercity hyperloops etc., without the necessary factory investments.

Let’s also forget about the hundreds of former Tesla fans, witnessing about poor to non-existent service, about cars being paid for but not delivered, about deposits not being returned on demand, about suppliers not getting paid or are asked to pay money back (!)


Before: several years of a monopoly-like situation + subsidies = increasingly unprofitable

Now: serious competition (BMW, Porsche, Volvo, Jaguar, Audi…) + no subsidies => profits?


Chart by Tesla Charts


Build it and the profits will come

At this point let’s just think about one single thing, since profits and cash flows are what ultimately decide the fate of a company:

Some of the bullish analysts and bag holders of Tesla stock are counting on Tesla and Musk finally turning profitable now that its subsidies are ending and a tsunami of competition (with subsidies) is entering their market.

Wait, what? Wut? Hqr sez wut?

Yup, that’s right, that’s what’s coming now according to bulls. Elon Musk has never turned a profit in any of his companies. The last fifteen years, Tesla has only increasing losses to show for its efforts to exploit its supposed first mover advantage and massive subsidies. But, now, finally, with a deluge of formidable competitors, with as deep pockets as experience in building and testing cars, Tesla is supposed to somehow reap the benefits of… scale, competitive position, increased margins?

Not only that, just as the available market is about to fall by 90% in the coming years, Tesla’s subsidies are going away. Tell me again how that is supposed to finally push margins into positive territory.


OK, back to the fraudster

The bigger the lie, the easier to get away with it, and Tesla is about as big as they get, just like Theranos, Enron and Madoff before that. Or Nick Leeson and Jérôme Kerviel.

Many fraudsters start out with good intentions, probably Elon Musk too. However, as reality catches up with dreams, losses and mistakes have to be swept under the rug. “It’s just temporarily“, they think, “for the greater good in the long term“, they reason, and go on to make bigger and bolder bets to cover up their little mishaps.

An idea about luxury roadsters and other premium cars making profits, that finance investments in mass-market car manufacturing that’s supposed to make even greater profits, instead turn into ever increasing losses and thus the necessity for side-shows of acquisitions and unrealistic innovations.

At some point the well-intentioned and benevolent disruptor realizes his predicament and steps over the fraud line. The genius has now become a fraudster; and with increasing vitriol and intensity he attacks everyone who expresses the least bit of skepticism, while coming up with ever more fantastic claims about breakthroughs that are on an “order of magnitude” above and beyond anything previously seen. At this point the smart money knows the game is up and starts pointing it out, but it takes years (Enron, CDOs, Allied Capital), sometimes decades (Madoff), for the Ponzi scheme to collapse into the surprised and devastated hands of the bag holders.


This is not about Tesla, but about balance and perspective

Why all the negativity? Because almost everybody else has a positive bias. It takes effort and guts to find and relay negative information to a herd of stampeding bulls. Very few bother, since everybody seems to hold nothing but contempt for short sellers, including SEC officials (who famously like to interrogate whistle-blowers and short sellers rather than investigate the actual perpetrators).

It’s simply humans being humans when bullish investors turn a blind eye to all the obvious negative facts, and instead pat each others’ backs, repeating their faith based narrative, “obviously corroborated by the stock price (bro)”. It’s not really their fault. The problem actually lies with bears being too silent, passively allowing gullible bulls to be had for a ride. Humans are gullible by nature; we like a good story and we tend to positivity. We want to believe in stories bout heroes. We want to believe in seeing ourselves becoming rich, in particular if it’s by supporting a good cause at the same time. Fraudsters (whether by design or mistake) take advantage if that trait.

That’s why bears armed with facts are so important. They perform an almost invaluable service in their quest of fact finding and creating balance in the otherwise one-sided bullish narrative. Humans are lazy and blind to other stories than their own. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just our nature. But that’s exactly why the bears are needed: to create perspective, to catalyze questioning and to provide facts and arguments that can be directly measured against whatever the bull story is.


It’s currently the most important story there is

But why Tesla all the time? You keep ranting about Tesla; why the negativity?

It’s because it’s the biggest and simultaneously most obvious house of cards out there. It’s the most unbalanced narrative there is in public markets right now, in terms of the bull story being the least factful and the bear story being the most tangible. There’s almost a hundred billion dollars at stake, not to mention bag holders car owners that have or have not received their cars but stand to lose any kind of warranty, pre-payments or access to spare parts or super-chargers.


Quite often, bear stories are more qualitative than financial in nature, i.e., less numbers based and more speculative regarding troubles ahead. Not too rarely, very high valuations feature in bears’ short stories, although most smart bears know that’s nowhere near what’s needed for a successful short.

Not this time though. This time the bulls are the dreamers, and the bears don’t even need to start talking about the valuation, since Tesla’s money is actually running out (and with no plan for raising new).

No matter how much bloggers, podcasters and successful investors try to dig out the true foundations of the bull story in Tesla, they come up empty handed. It’s all narrative and hope that the lone genius, who so far has accomplished nothing, will soon magically wave his cave dildo, display his magic beans, and create actual profits.

Occam’s razor would long ago just have labelled Musk a fraudster rather than a genius, and all his actions would be all that much easier to explain.

A genius wouldn’t manufacture lemons and losses. A fraudster could. A genius wouldn’t fantasize about products he could never afford to build. A fraudster might as a cover-up. A genius wouldn’t put himself at the mercy of markets (no cash, negative flow). A fraudster would claim funding is secured (even if the claim might prove to be securities fraud). Would an environmentalist genius have five large Bel Air mansions and the biggest private jet there is (G650)? He could, but a fraudster fits the bill better. A genius maybe should have produced profits some time in his history. A fraudster wouldn’t see why. Finally, a genius wouldn’t pump up numbers in collaboration with his brother in an unrelated company and push his board into accepting a takeover at the very peak of that company’s business. A fraudster? Hell yeah!

This last bit is admittedly speculative, but the perspective is still important. No matter, the bull-genius narrative has only dreams, hopes and fantasies in its corner; while the bear-fraudster story is based on facts about sales, costs, profits, production numbers, quality reports, traffic statistics and not least a much more likely and coherent overall picture.


Market perspective

By the way, how’s this for perspective: imagine a private investor, an amateur with less than a decade under his market belt, doing all his research after his ordinary job hours, without any real insight in the inner workings of either the financial industry or that of the stocks he invest in. Imagine that same person thinking he understands more than, oh I don’t know, e.g., Mark Spiegel, David Einhorn, Jim Chanos…, and me.

I know, I know, I know… why would decades of profitably navigating several bull and bear markets, including investing on both the long and short side in hundreds if not thousands of individual companies, no less with the help of a solid financial education, actually having investing as full-time profession, supported by many, many competent co-workers and with access to dozens of the top financial research firms, ever stand a chance against a lone amateur? Or, er, wait a minute…

 

That’s not how herds operate

 

Maybe, just maybe, the unquestioning bulls need to be shaken out of their confirmation bias bubble and start listening to the fact-finding minority. Sure, we are guilty of CB too, but I’m sure all experienced bears make a true effort of mapping out the bull case in as much detail as humanly possible. The bulls? I’m not so sure, that’s not how herds typically behave.

How about you? Are you long or short Tesla, and have you queried the other side for their best arguments and pitched your own against them yet?

Intuition – what it is and how to use it (the curious case of the Tesla buyout)

Topic: Intuition is real, not just a guess or an irrelevant feeling. A hunch is always just the starting point of a formal investigation

Length: Short

Shorting Tesla: My intuition told me to investigate a short position in Tesla, but I’ve of course made sure to go over my best practices check list for investments before actually going through with the trade


Logic or Feels

How do you make your best decisions? Gut feeling, hunch, intuition, guess, expert pattern recognition, or logical conclusion after carefully weighing pros and cons?

Are you in the Pure Logic or the Gut Feeling camp? Don’t worry, you don’t have to choose. In the real world, they both complement each other and is some ways are the same thing.

An intuition is the result of the sum total of your experiences as pitched against the current situation. If you’re extremely experienced, that intuition might very well be the best possible basis for a decision. If you’re not, it might very well be the worst (psychological biases can be a bitch).


Golfers, physicists and investors

Just as a golf player deliberately practices parts of his swing and other aspects of his game, but relinquishes control to his subconscious when actually playing, a decision maker, an investor, e.g., needs extensive practice and experience in the nitty gritty details before developing a reliable expert recognition ability.

It doesn’t end there of course. The hunch, the gut feeling, the “blink” is emphatically not always right on the money. Just as often it can be completely off the mark. If your intuition tells you to buy this stock over that one, or go short rather than long, that can only be the beginning. Scientists, e.g., conjecture an idea about how the real world works. That conjecture, thoughtful guess based on extensive experience, then gets falsified or verified through experiment.


a super educated “guess”,

based on thousands or millions of data points,

his subconscious had combined

in ways his conscious mind never could


An investor does something similar; his experience and prior knowledge about the economy, interest rates, currency movements, about historical performance for various stocks, news flow, hypes and fads and so on, point him to a few promising ideas. No matter how convincing that first intuition is however, a serious investor then proceeds to try to falsify his investment case.

More often than not, a good and experienced investor will find that his hunch was right, that there is an overwhelming amount of facts in favor of his original idea. It was his expert recognition ability, his intuition that pointed him in the right direction, a super educated “guess” based on thousands or millions of data points his subconscious had combined in ways his conscious mind never could. Please note, that this is not a case of confirmation bias; remember that our thoughtful investor was actively trying to find counterarguments, not the other way round.


Not a guess

Just because you don’t have access to the computer making the decision doesn’t mean it’s not a logical conclusion. Just because your limited conscious mind can only handle variables in the tens or possibly hundreds, doesn’t diminish the ability of the brain/mind to effectively deal with inputs numbering in the millions or billions. Long before formal logic, the mind took account of touch data, smell data, visual and auditory data to record the totality of a situation and its consequences.

You might not have known there was a prey or predator around the corner, but you “felt” it. You couldn’t actively smell it, hear it, immediately realize the birds or monkeys behaved differently, that you stepped over a suspicious looking mark in the trail a bit back and so on. Your subconscious, however, did; and concluded you are being ambushed by a lioness. Our skilled hunter actually could stop to think about the alarms going off in his head and check certain variables against a check list: trail tracks, bird sounds, monkey business, maybe a faint smell of big cat, landscape form, ambush-friendly large stone or tree etc. and conclude it really is time to turn around.

That wouldn’t be a guess anymore, nowhere close to just a guess of whether there is a God or not.

I might guess that Elon Musk doesn’t have funding for a buyout of Tesla. I might guess that the stock provides a good shorting opportunity. My several decades long experience with similar situations on the stock market (although this one is as unique as they come) might scream this is as good a sell as there ever is. I would still, however, need to corroborate that guess with tangible information. And I have.

One thing is that Tesla is burning cash, has loads of debt, produces lemons at a higher rate than any other car manufacturer, that Tesla’s are four times as likely to kill their drivers as similar cars, that Tesla bought SolarCity at it’s very peak before sales collapsed (fake sales it turned out)…; simply that Tesla’s business is nowhere near of being sustainable or profitable.

Another is the constant lies, exaggerations and other funny business round Tesla and Elon Musk. Musk keeps saying Tesla will soon turn a profit, will soon produce X amount of cars, will not need to raise capital ever again and so on. In reality, the losses and cash burn only rise, and Tesla has raised capital through issuing debt and equity numerous times after his claims. There is no reason to believe anything he says now either — in particular given his obsession with “short sellers and their spreading negativity”, not to mention Tesla is all but completely out of cash (by December 31, Tesla is officially in breach of some of its loan covenants), and Musk himself desperately needs a higher stock price lest he will be forced to sell shares to cover his private loans.


Who’s guessing, longs or shorts?

On the long side, the only arguments you ever hear are “Don’t bet against Musk. Look at the stock price. Environment. Will soon make enormous profits”; never any explanations as to how those profits will be attained. My “guess” is that the Tesla longs in this case only play by ear, and their first uneducated guess, supported by an enormous amount of confirmation bias and desire for Musk to make magical progress and save the world.

The bears, including me, know we’re as usual up against very strong opponents: money printing, wishful thinking, unthinking bulls, cheap leverage, comatose regulators, short squeezes etc. That’s why we keep investigating, keep finding information supporting our case, while actively looking for bullish information that could derail the short case.

Yes, no matter how unlikely a sudden buyout, we bears actually give it some thought. Who could do it? Who would do it? How would it be done? What consortium, which banks, which law firms, how would it be communicated, what about the board of directors, how could Musk both make threats of a short burn, buy stocks privately and have information about an imminent buyout without committing securities fraud? We have to entertain the possibility. There is nothing in the short case but money to be made, so there’s no use fighting all the forces of the market if the odds are not ever in our favor.

Is a buyout at all possible? Of course. Is it likely? My experience, intuition and check lists all point to a resounding NO, there isn’t a 50% probability God exists just because somebody says he might:


Magical funding or mental breakdown

Tesla is a basket case, with inferior products sold at a loss, facing an acute liquidity crisis. You’d have to be incredibly ill-informed to take it over at prices anywhere near today’s market price, let alone at a premium. Besides, all the weird things Elon has tweeted the last 6 months, including how he wants to make a buyout of Tesla but hope all investors stay investors (what?!) and go private with him, speak volumes of Musk’s mental breakdown (much more likely than a 70bn funding materializing out of nowhere).

No matter how this ends, it seems the end is pretty close. And that end is one for the history books. My bet is that it will be very similar to the end of the Enron saga. What does your intuition tell you, and how does your best practices check list corroborate that view?

In any case, this blog post is not a recommendation to buy or sell financial instruments. Do your research elsewhere and trade carefully.

Quick and dirty Tesla update after Quoth The Raven debate and ahead of Q2 #s

Topic: Tesla the company, Tesla the stock, and Elon Musk

Conclusion: More of a debate, but maybe some short term upside risk for a short seller

Inspiration: This great debate on Quoth The Raven’s podcast episode 50.


Elon Musk has pulled out all the stops on all fronts. He built a tent, he built a number of more or less crappy cars, but probably thousands that are more or less fine too. He’s on twitter all the time calling all kinds of people names I don’t care to repeat. Everybody can see Musk is panicking over something. The question is what.

Is he trying to get fired before a Chapter 11 or a SEC investigation? Is he just trying to burn a few shorts before the curtain falls? Is he really trying to save shorters before turning around his auto start-up? Well, if he’s really trying to save the world, maybe he wants to save shorters too.

Looking in the rear view mirror, Tesla has burned an insane amount of capital as a trail blazer for electrical vehicles; and it doesn’t seem nowhere near turning a profit anytime soon. Looking ahead Tesla might become and industry leader with several billion dollars in annual cash flow as it disrupts the legacy auto industry built around gas stations and combustion engines.

Recently (July 15, 2018), Quoth The Raven arranged an hour-long debate between pro-Tesla Galileo and Tesla skeptic Montana Skeptic. What follows is a truly sloppy transcript written in real time while listening to the debate. I only post it here as a kind of public notebook for the most relevant arguments on either side of the debate. It’s a very good natured debate and there’s lots to learn for bulls and bears alike.

I’m actually kind of blown away by Galileo’s confidence and arguments. It was the first time I’ve heard a coherent bull side of the Tesla story. On the other hand it’s no secret I think Galileo’s view of capex, profits and not least the “software moat” have nothing on Montana Skeptic’s “competition, loss-making, can’t afford capex for future models, M3 is last chance and it’s hugely loss making” argumentation.


Right after the transcript, I’ve added a little bit of short term speculation regarding the share price (Disclosure: I’m short Tesla. Disclaimer: nothing here is a recommendation; do your research elsewhere, I take no responsibility for any losses you may incur. More disclaimers.)


Loosely composed transcript

Feel free to point out mistakes, or why not improve on the document right here in this shared document: TESLA QTR DEBATE “TRANSCRIPT”. Create sentences out of words, paragraphs and narrative out of sentences, add charts, perhaps add own arguments (clearly marked as such) etc.

Please note that I haven’t secured any rights whatsoever to do this from Quoth The Raven. I’m hoping he’ll like the initiative, but if he doesn’t I’ll take it down immediately. A tweet or an e-mail is sufficient. 

 

Tesla debate on QTR

Pro – Galileo

First and foremost the CEO, I’m betting on the jockey not the horse

Smartest leader in the world, incredible leader

Track record of zip2, paypal

Disruptor

Both incredible engineer and business person

Running Tesla as a start-up, CTO, technical founder and business person

Massive opportunity for electrical transport system AND autonomous vehicles

Tesla is in start-up mode

Building for millions of cars not a few 100k

Reaching 20bn in revenue faster than Amazon did; Tesla is one of fastest growing companies ever, 50% per year compounded growth

Clear strategy: High end cars => cheaper and cheaper cars => 10x number of cars in future

Leading battery technology

Big utility projects like in Australia

Autopilot big story for future

Apple-like perfectionism, focus on customer

Several 100bn mcap auto maker in future

 

Con – Montana Sceptic

Competition coming now, has been in monopoly for lux EV last 6 years

Lavish subsidies, still lost lot of money

Real losses, not due to capex, the capex comes from cap raises. Tesla has no money to reinvest.

Lost 700m Q1, probably 700m more in Q2

iPace has arrived, superior reviews. Next Audi, Mercedes, Porsche, Volvo

Model S sales already falling off. Their high margin car being cannibalized by M3.

Competition will gut margins further

Has lost aspirational image in Europe. Next year in US

M3 supposed to be money maker, but after one year with M3 Tesla has lost more than ever. Maybe break even on 60k priced M3, but addressable market for 60k sedan is limited. Running out of demand. 35k doesn’t exist, Tesla will die if tries. No tax credit in future and many pre-ordered because of that

Supercharger network still superior but coming CCS system in Europe is better.

Valuation: GM P/E 6, ford 7. If Tesla warrants 15x, needs 3.5bn profit to defend current market cap.

“Betting on Elon Musk”… Irrational person, calling rescue diver pedo. Not an engineer at all. Not a leader (look at exodus of managers)

EV revolution can’t survive without subsidies due to expensive batteries. Just a niche product without subsidies. Will be better in future but not yet.

Australia project at best break even. Overwhelming nothing. Not profitable.

 

Pro

Competition: could have said about Chevy Volt, but Tesla still much higher sales. Will only believe competition is relevant when it actually is outselling Tesla.

Ironic that EV revolution not coming if at the same time says competition coming now

Tesla had super backlog even before existed – like Apple iPhone

GM, Ford are tied to combustion engine. That’s why low PE


TOPIC: is Tesla’s capex sufficient for 3, Y, semi, roadster 2, solar roof tiles and all else?

Pro

Believe 2018 capex not addressing anything but M3

Investing capex in one project, then moving to next

Can’t expand >100% per year. Irresponsible to try for mfg.

Will have to raise capital to fund Y, Semi, Roadster, solar roof to build out factories and robots. Will see profitability for M3 in 2018 but need and will raise cap for future

Compare Netflix: Tesla should say that “wont be profitable, we are building for the future coming 5 years.”

15bn incremental capex coming 5 year. Vs 50-60bn market cap not too bad 3-4% dilution/year to fund capex. I want them to do capex, growing future earnings power

 

Con

Model Y, said should start in 2019, said in Fremont, said that had capacity, but Strauble (?) said “no, we are jammed to the gills, need new factory”.

Probably takes 3-5 years to build a factory. No 8K filed for China MOU so just a big nothing.

No room for semi in Fremont

Thus: No new products coming for several years

Takes lot of capital and time to develop new products; and exist no plans yet

Supercharger upgrades? Thought that was the moat. No, moats are “lame” said Musk.

Where will Tesla get money to expand or upgrade SC net?

Tesla is slashing its capex; not only underinvested for future, also for present

Only applied for permit for tent, fire damage, and bare bones maintenance, and robotic feather duster system. So, no real capex for mfg expansion being done

Goldman says needs 10.5bn minimum over 2.5 years, which is 5x what ever done before.

Invested billions in capital and have record losses. How convince Wall Street that future capex will create profits?

 

Pro

Need capital but spending too little capex. Cherry picking stats. Catch 22, spending too little and too much at the same time.

Adding more revenue and production capacity than any other car maker. Data shows Tesla knows how to expand capacity.

Cash flow is positive on every product after 2 years.


TOPIC 2: Market share, EV sales, how doing in US

Con

+90% EV sales in US 2018/2017. So what, losing money on them. Of course can get market share. Not eo for a new car co. to take share; especially when doing it at a loss. In particular before subsidies expire and competitor products come online.

 

If Tesla were expanding share and making money would be impressive, but now losing money faster than growing revenue. Tesla is now cherry picking highest margin M3 models in Q3, Q4. Finding clients paying for highest priced models M3 while cannibalizing S,X.

The more they sell the more they lose. Not a promising business model

 

Pro

Making it so easy for me. The other automakers are screwed because Tesla has leading battery cost. If Tesla is losing money the others lose more. Selling dollar at 85c vs the others at 50c? Think the others lose much more than Tesla. Tesla reports positive margins.

M3 best selling car in US, S and X nr 2 and 3. Tesla keeps expanding market share right when others like Chevy Volt should have taken share. Bulls keep saying the next competitor will kill Tesla, but Tesla keeps pulling ahead.

 

Takes time to build a profitable large car maker. When Tesla reaches scale they will be profitable and Tesla is using social media engagement, millions of followers, no spending on marketing. The others are dinosaurs that totally missed the EV trend.

 

“So what?”: EVs were a joke, a niche, but all autos are now investing billions after seeing Tesla being successful. 20bn orders, lining up like for an iPhone… THAT’s not a “so what”, that’s disruption

 

Con

Yes, fans lined up for a 35-7.5k car

Zero evidence for leading battery cost

Gross margin, profit: is higher than other cos because they have to have a dealership model. Teslas costs show up in sales and service centers instead. Need net profits.

The other cos have profitable combustion engines, and can afford subsidizing EVs; Tesla can’t


TOPIC 3: EMs behavior on social media, good or bad?

Pro

Not good calling somebody names. Not good people reporting on tweets rather than on business. Pathetic by Musk to be affected by tweets

Tesla is leveraging social media in strategic way. Direct megaphone, marketing machine, => millions or billions in free press

Presence on Twitter is incredibly valuable if used in right way

Coordinating Oz project, OTA brake update etc. over Twitter

Culture and brand that nobody else has

Only car maker that has figured out how to use social media for marketing. Doesn’t spend a single dollar on marketing.

Elon should stay on Twitter, stay involved, but grow up and not call somebody a pedophile

 

Con

As marriage counselors say: What you love will drive you crazy eventually. The Musk cult is discovering how boldness, iconoclasticness, promiscuous tweeting has a backside: reckless, narcissistic.

Not smart to lash out at short sellers as if responsible for poor manufacturing, or lash out at journalists personally, accusing/suing Martin Tripp for sabotage, and Lopez for bribery, accusing diver for being a pedophile. Not just absurd: sick and despicable. Should cause outcry and calls for Musk stepping down. No other CEO would last 24h after such an accusation. Puts board in a bind. Defamation suit? Why did Musk have to be the centre of attention? Deep seated insecurity. Narcissistic. Needs to be the great saver av all of us. That trait is incurable. reated cult of personality, investors embraced it. Both are stuck with it. This is just an. Charming, lovely exciting can turn into perception of Ugly, problematic damaging

 

Pro

Conference call was smart, giving a voice to retail investors

Accusing short sellers put focus on them so they don’t make synch attacks


FINAL

Con

Lives from cap raise to cap raise. But for a cap raise always on brink of BK

Neg curr assets several Bn dollars; need more capital this year

Other automakers have portfolio of profitable products = advantage

Interior of M3 “tired”, “never was that remarkable”, losing aspirational status

If Tesla can’t eke out a profit in Q3, Q4 they will never be. In coming years, will have nothing else to sell.

Very hard to pencil out a profitability that warrants more than 20-30 dollars/share

 

Pro

Incredible once in a century disruption of transportation: Electrification + Autonomy

Tesla had this vision before anybody else

Legacy for others is huge achilles heel: dealers, not own stores, combustion engines…

Misses entire story since misses how fast

 

Software: sold computer game at 12yo, SW is fundamentally different skill than combustion engine and analog devices. OTA upgrade, touch screen control. Tesla teardown says circuitboard is like an F35 fighter jet. Tesla has software in its DNA, also good at hiring s/w engineers. The others can’t attract s/w engineers. Battery management software, e.g., that Tesla has perfected with several 100k cars on the road will take five years for other cars to learn. This is the major differentiator.

Multi 100bn dollar company. Oz project showed proof of concept at unprecedented scale.

Software is at core, massive moat. Everything ties back to SW vs dinosaurs trying to pivot to a model Tesla invented

 

Con

“Computers with wheels…” — too bad Tesla can’t build wheels that don’t fall out

Crazy to think the other car manufacturers don’t have competent sw engineers, Over The Air updating capabilities ready or planned.


Speculation

As I said above, Musk is clearly coming off the hinges, and a cornered animal can do all kinds of crazy things. I’m guessing Musk could windowdress the company in a single quarter, showing a profit, positive cash flow, high sales numbers or high reported gross margins. I can’t see how any of that would be sustainable; but short term I can definitely see how it could push the share substantially higher short term.

(I can also imagine the market not falling for that trick again, but so far Tesla’s share price has had a tendency to rise on any little hint at potentially positive news)

Looking forward a year, I’m confident the Tesla growth story is over. Tesla doesn’t have a credible path to profitability, and any cash it manages to raise for capex would go to covering losses and maybe, just maybe to projects 3, 4, 5 years into the future. By then Tesla will have lost any lead it once had in roadsters, trucks, chargers, batteries and luxury EVs.


To summarize, I think Q2 is a lost cause. Tesla’s burst effort must have cost more than in Q1, and the cars it has sold are still loss making per unit despite under reserving for warranties. On the other hand, Tesla’s reports are never about earnings. In Q2 Musk can talk about record sales, record production rates, reaching the 5k/week production goal (although they really didn’t), maybe even record gross margins (since they are made up and irrelevant anyway). He can also make promises about profitability and positive cash flow in Q3 and Q4 and claim Tesla doesn’t need to raise capital anytime soon. He can say they’ve reached new highs for a one day production rate. He can more or less say anything, and probably will, in a last ditch effort to push the stock price upward.

Technically, I think the stock looks weak. I also think the real results for Q2 will show vulnerability and low cash levels. I’m sticking to my shorts over earnings, but I can definitely understand if you don’t. What if Musk is extremely upbeat and both promises and reaches profitability in Q3 (based on selling high-spec Model 3s at a positive margin to Tesla’s most hard-core fans)? Then the Tesla bull story could really grow some legs for several months.

Yes, I readily admit I’m a bit wary of what Elon Musk and his fans can accomplish short term. On the other hand, the allure of being short when this thing blows is just to great to risk missing. The doomsday clock is five to midnight, Tesla is out of money, out of products, out of a “cool” leader and out of time. All it has is a crazy cult following that might turn on the company in short order on missteps like PAC contributions or absurd and sick accusations directed at analysts, cave divers and journalists.


P.S. Follow Quoth The Raven and check out his weekly rants on his 2-drinks minimum Friday evening podcast

P.P.S. Please note (again) that I haven’t secured any rights whatsoever to do this from Quoth The Raven. I’m hoping he’ll like the initiative, but if he doesn’t I’ll take it down immediately. A tweet or an e-mail is sufficient.