April 24, 2024
Finance

Morgan Stanley cuts Tesla’s price target, warns this could be the year Tesla loses money


Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas is the latest analyst to raise some concerns with Tesla (TSLA). In a note to clients, Jonas wondered, “Could Tesla lose money (sometime) this year?”

In cutting his price target to $320 from $345 (still one of the more bullish targets on the Street), Jonas noted concerns such as continued lag in EV demand despite price cuts, fleet operators like Hertz dumping EVs, and “strong hybrid momentum” peeling away potential EV buyers who are on the fence.

Jonas said that if there is ever a time that Tesla could post a GAAP EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) loss in its auto business, it could be 2024. In response, Tesla shares closed down for the third straight day.

Key among the concerns for Morgan Stanley and Jonas are a “relatively aged” product, decelerating EV demand in key markets, an oversupplied Chinese market, and a hybrid renaissance.

The China market is noteworthy, given recent price cuts by Tesla and its major rival BYD lowering the price of its entry-level Seagull and Yuan Plus crossover just this week. “We believe price competition will persist in 2024 and will spur OEMs to expand their cost-cutting efforts [in China],” Jonas wrote.

These factors have led Jonas and the Morgan Stanley team to cut estimates for key Tesla metrics:

  • 2024 unit volume cut to under 2 million units, or around 10% year-over-year growth

  • GAAP operating profit margin reduced to 3.7% from FY24 forecast of 5.9%

  • FY24 GAAP EPS cut to $0.99 vs $1.54 prior; non-GAAP EPS cut to $1.51 vs $2.04 previously

Jonas wrote the lower price target is based on the following cuts: a $5 cut due to lower top-line growth, a $10 cut from lower margins, and a $10 cut from slower growth in Tesla mobility initiatives like ride-share and autonomy.

All that being said, Jonas is still Overweight on Tesla stock due to other non-EV bets in Tesla’s product universe.

FILE - Elon Musk appears at an event with Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London, on Nov. 2, 2023. Musk is suing OpenAI and its CEO Sam Altman over what he says is a betrayal of the ChatGPT maker's founding aims of benefiting humanity rather than pursuing profits. In a lawsuit filed Thursday Feb. 29, 2024 at San Francisco Superior Court, billionaire Musk said that when he bankrolled OpenAI's creation, he secured an agreement with Altman and Greg Brockman, the president, to keep the AI company as a non-profit that would develop technology for the benefit of the public. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, Pool, File)FILE - Elon Musk appears at an event with Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London, on Nov. 2, 2023. Musk is suing OpenAI and its CEO Sam Altman over what he says is a betrayal of the ChatGPT maker's founding aims of benefiting humanity rather than pursuing profits. In a lawsuit filed Thursday Feb. 29, 2024 at San Francisco Superior Court, billionaire Musk said that when he bankrolled OpenAI's creation, he secured an agreement with Altman and Greg Brockman, the president, to keep the AI company as a non-profit that would develop technology for the benefit of the public. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, Pool, File)

Elon Musk appears at an event with Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London on Nov. 2, 2023. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo, Pool, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

“Our thesis on Tesla is that it is both an auto stock + an energy, AI/robotics company,” Jonas said. “We believe investors should not ignore the continued developments of Tesla’s other plays, many of which are auto-related (i.e. the recurring revenue opportunity from the Tesla fleet — embedded in our Tesla Network Services valuation) and other areas that we do not include within our $320 target but that the market may include (i.e. Optimus).”

AI firm OpenAI alleged on Tuesday that Elon Musk once tried to merge OpenAI with Tesla, which would have created an AI giant. Musk was an early investor in OpenAI and ended up suing it, accusing the firm of prioritizing profits over creating a public good.

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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