Rebecca Cook / Reuters
Wall Street analysts are responding to Tesla’s announcement last week that it would lay off about 7% of its staff because of pressure on profits and Model 3 production challenges.
RBC Capital Markets on Tuesday slashed its price target and downgraded the stock, saying Tesla was “waking up from the dream” it sells to investors.
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Tesla has long promised its Model 3 sedan will be a vehicle for the masses, eventually reaching a price point more affordable than those of the company’s luxury cars. But it has had difficulty keeping up production, which has some analysts concerned about its sustainability.
Last week, CEO Elon Musk said the company would lay off approximately 7% of its staff — about 3,000 employees — because of pressure on profits and the Model 3’s production challenges. Wall Street, perhaps predictably, has largely responded negatively, and on Tuesday another firm said it was lowering its rating on Tesla shares.
“While the strategy of fulfilling the high end to bring cost down for the low end had good intentions, we believe Tesla underestimated the cost curves and manufacturing side of the equation,” the RBC Capital Markets analyst Joseph Spak told clients on Tuesday under the headline “Waking up from the dream.”
“34 months post Tesla offering the promise of a $35k M3, the car still does not exist and Tesla admits they can’t make it profitably.”
In addition to slapping an “underperform” rating on the stock, Spak slashed his price target to $245 a share from $290, implying a drop of nearly 17% from current levels. Tesla fell 2% in premarket trading Tuesday, to about $293.90 a share.
Read more: Tesla is slashing workers ahead of one of the most crucial deadlines in its history
“It’s not that we don’t believe Tesla can grow over time,” Spak said, adding that RBC’s model predicted solid long-term growth. “But the current valuation already considers overly lofty expectations.”
Still, at a difficult moment for the company, Tesla received approval this week to begin selling its Model 3 in Europe, which, along with China, is expected to be an important source of sales growth.
Other experts covering Tesla have echoed a similarly dim outlook. On Monday, Goldman Sachs analysts led by David Tamberrino reiterated the firm’s bearish 12-month price target of $225 a share and “sell” rating.
“Altogether, we believe that 2019 is shaping up to be another choppy year for Tesla and its shares as it navigates the US Federal Tax Credit phase-out and mix-down of its Model 3 program,” Tamberrino said. “Ultimately we continue to see downside to consensus expectations over the coming years and expect the company’s shares to follow.”
Read more: Everyone who’s telling you that Tesla is influencing the rest of the auto industry is completely wrong
Citi analysts maintained their “sell/high risk” rating on the stock, pointing to the company’s latest update as a confirmation of “sustainability concerns.”
Some Tesla observers say the company slashing its workforce is no reason to grow negative on the name. Jefferies analysts said it’s “part of the process of reducing Model 3 price point.” And Oppenheimer said job cuts pointed to the Tesla’s maturation as a company.
Tesla shares have fallen 16% over the past year. Shareholders will receive a fuller picture of the company’s financial health when the company reports fourth-quarter earnings next Wednesday.
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