The number of analysts on the fringe of Wall Street who predict that Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) won’t survive has grown. Those predictions are stupid. Tesla’s stock may plunge and its borrowing costs may soar, but its brand and success as the leader of the electric car business mean it could get any one of several lifelines.
Tesla has a reasonable chance to sell more shares. The dilution would send its share price tumbling. However, it would not need to add to its debt service or further encumber its balance sheet.
Tesla could raise money via debt markets. The interest rate would be substantial. The companies that make the loans would need to believe Tesla’s inexpensive Model 3 will become a success and provide enough cash flow to eat down the debt, at least to manageable levels. Debt holders might have a lien on some of Tesla’s inventory or factory installations.
Tesla likely could find private equity partners. That probably would come with share dilution, but the stock would go to one entity that would have an incentive to hold it as the Tesla business model matures. Such firms have taken more risky shots. An investment in Tesla would be a jewel in the crown of most private equity companies.
Finally, the odds are very high that a larger car company, perhaps one of the global giants, would take a position in Tesla. Its market cap compared to the car giants could make this difficult. But a deal could be constructed that would allow capital to go into Tesla now in exchange for what might become technology sharing and preferred instruments that could be converted to equity or debt later.
The absurdity of the Tesla speculation can be summed up by the wild speculation of one tiny money manager, who runs little enough capital to even qualify for the title. John Thompson of Vilas Capital Management told MarketWatch:
Companies eventually have to make a profit, and I don’t ever see that happening here. This is one of the worst income statements I’ve ever seen and between the story and the financials, the financials will win out in this case.
Thompson hasn’t even been able to build a fund with much more than $25 million in capital. He is a good example of what people say when they don’t understand their subject. And he should spend his time raising a little money.