Analyst cut off by Musk plans to hold Tesla accountable

Investing


One of the analysts cut off by Tesla chief executive Elon Musk during the company’s latest earnings call has responded, telling clients he plans to “hold Tesla accountable” for its performance.

In an open letter and invitation to Musk entitled “Dear Elon,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Joseph Spak on Wednesday defended his questioning.

“Some of these questions can seem dry, boring or short-term focused, but hopefully you can appreciate that anyone looking to invest in Tesla’s future must first be comfortable with its present,” Spak wrote.

“I would be elated to host you for a webcast or call to talk extensively about all the amazing industry innovations you are driving and dispel any investor misconceptions you perceive,” he added.

Tesla declined to comment for this story.

Musk, who hosted Tesla’s earnings conference call last week to detail the company’s quarterly progress, grew frustrated by what he characterized as “boring, bonehead” questions from industry analysts.

So when Spak later asked Musk for clarification on the company’s Model 3 reservations on the call, he didn’t get the answer he was looking for.

“We’re going to go to YouTube,” Musk declared. “These questions are so dry. They’re killing me.”

He then took a string of questions from Galileo Russell, a 25-year-old retail investor and owner of a YouTube Channel, who asked the Tesla chief on Twitter if he could be on the earnings call, normally reserved for analysts, professional investors and sometimes, the media.

Tesla’s shares tumbled the day after the call, but since then have regained much of the losses.

To be sure, Spak remains optimistic about the electric car maker, calling Tesla “an amazing company with a compelling long-term opportunity.” The analyst currently has a sector perform rating on shares and a 12-month price target of $280, implying 7 percent downside.

“Don’t get me wrong. I love talking and thinking about the big picture and what Tesla can become. That’s what makes Tesla such a fascinating company,” Spak wrote. But “my responsibility is to be well informed when I discuss Tesla’s stock with current and potential investors. A financial results call is an opportunity for Wall Street to re-calibrate our expectations.”

While Spak was just one of a few analysts on the receiving end of an exasperated CEO, several Wall Street analysts criticized Musk’s behavior on the call, arguing that the shareholders they represent need the gritty details of any company’s finances before making investment decisions.

Clear results from Tesla are of unusually paramount importance for many on Wall Street who feel the electric car maker is at risk of continuing to miss on its Model 3 production goals.

Musk said last summer that Tesla would likely be making 20,000 Model 3s per month by the end of the year, but the company then downgraded those expectations to 2,500 per week. Just last month, Jalopnik.com reported that the company was making 2,000 Model 3s per week as of the end of the first quarter.

Aside from the production issues, Wall Street’s short sellers – who have made Tesla the single biggest short on the Street – likely celebrated a voluntary recall of 123,000 Model S vehicles last month because of an issue with a power-steering component.

Still, Musk continues to push back against who have raised concerns about the company’s long-term financial outlook. Though some have wondered whether the setbacks will require the company to raise more capital later this year, Musk firmly rebuked that claim last week.

Asked last week if he might consider now a good time to raise more money, the CEO simply said “no.”

Many investors, too, are hoping for a big payoff from the company. Since its initial public offering price of $17 a share in mid-2010, Tesla’s stock soared as high as $385 last year before production issues deflated shares to their current $302 level.

—CNBC’s John Melloy and Robert Ferris contributed reporting.





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