Tesla ticks up as company ekes out profit

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    Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla Inc., speaks during a ceremony at the company’s Gigafactory in Shanghai, China, on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020.

    Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

    Tesla reported first-quarter earnings on Wednesday. 

    Here’s how the company did: 

    • Earnings per share (EPS): $1.24 per share, ex-items
    • Revenue: $5.99 billion

    Wall Street is expecting an adjusted loss of 36 cents per share and revenue of $5.9 billion, according to a survey of analysts by Refinitiv. However, estimates varied widely, and comparing Tesla’s actual results with estimates isn’t straightforward, given the difficulty of predicting the impact of the novel coronavirus. 

    Previously, Tesla reported that it had delivered around 88,400 vehicles in the first quarter of 2020, including: combined deliveries of 76,200 Model 3 sedans and Model Y cross-over SUVs, and combined deliveries of 12,200 of the older and more expensive Model S and X vehicles.

    This period marked Tesla’s first full quarter with a factory open in Shanghai, and Tesla’s first quarter of Model Y deliveries and production. 

    In Q4 2019, Tesla reported its second consecutive GAAP-profitable quarter, and investors will be looking to see if it continues the streak. At that time, Tesla executives said they expected the company to be positive cash flow and net income on a continuing basis, with possible exceptions as the company launches and ramps up production for new products. They also said they expected to comfortably exceed sales of 500,000 vehicles in 2020.

    Last quarter, revenue came in at $7.38 billion — Q4 revenues are typically the highest of the year because of seasonal factors — and Q1 2019 revenues were $4.54 billion.

    Covid-19 effects

    Government health orders, meant to curb the spread of the virus, forced Tesla to suspend production at its new car plant in Shanghai for around two weeks in February. By the end of March, Tesla would face an even longer restriction in the U.S.

    Nonetheless, CEO Elon Musk was able to raise $2 billion in a stock offering in February before the epidemic in China expanded into a global pandemic.

    Tesla’s main U.S. car plant in Fremont, California, has been operating at a minimum basic level since March 24, as required by Alameda County public health orders. (Minimum basic operations primarily include physical security around the facility, and maintenance of equipment and inventory there.)

    The company also suspended production temporarily at its battery plant outside of Reno, Nevada, and at its facility in Buffalo, New York, where it makes components for its batteries and its electric vehicle charging stations, along with some solar products.

    Impacts of these shut-downs are expected to hit Tesla’s balance sheet fully in the second quarter of 2020. The company has already implemented furloughs, pay cuts and ceased all but essential contractor and temp assignments.

    Despite Covid-19 related business disruptions, Tesla was able to sell cars online and deliver them to customers with a “contactless” delivery option throughout the U.S., and to keep servicing its customers’ cars.