Tesla posts $22M net income in third quarter

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Tesla Motors Inc. posted its first profit in more than three years Wednesday, with net income of $21.9 million in the third quarter, driven by record production, deliveries and revenue.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk called it, “One of the best moments ever in Tesla” and said the company could turn a profit in the fourth quarter, too. The last time Tesla produced a profit was the first quarter of 2013.

“It’s very exciting and we’re very proud of the Tesla team for executing so well,” Musk said in a call with analysts and reporters.

Some analysts were expecting the Palo Alto, California-based company to earn a slight profit. It earned 14 cents a share. During the quarter a year ago, it lost $229.9 million, or $1.78 a share, on revenue of about $937 million. Starting with the third quarter, Tesla adopted commonly used Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP, but also reported non-GAAP results. Non-GAAP net income was $111 million.

Both accounting approaches are commonly used, with GAAP being the standard in the U.S. The difference in Tesla’s results under the two methods comes, in part, from excluding stock-based compensation and some interest payments in non-GAAP reporting. One of the reasons Tesla has used non-GAAP reporting is because of complex accounting issues raised by its guaranteed resale value option offered to buyers.

Tesla’s revenue more than doubled to $2.3 billion as the company delivered 24,821 vehicles in the quarter, up 114 percent from a year ago. Deliveries included 16,047 Model S sedans and 8,774 Model X SUVs. Production in the quarter totaled 25,185 vehicles, up 37 percent from the second quarter and up from 13,091 produced in the three months a year ago.

Tesla, in a letter to shareholders, said new products, better store efficiency and new store openings helped results.

Earnings were released just after the market closed Wednesday and trading after hours was up nearly 5.5 percent. Its stock closed Wednesday at $202.24 a share, down 10 cents.

“It appears the company focused intently on ensuring production targets were met while keeping costs in check,” Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for Autotrader, said in a statement. “The profitable quarter comes at a good time as the Tesla board votes next month on the controversial merger with SolarCity Corp. The company said it expects the profitable trend to continue. That remains to be seen.”

The company is seeking to combine with San Mateo, California-based SolarCity , a rooftop solar developer, where Musk serves as chairman. Shareholders from both companies are set to vote Nov. 17.

Musk has said merging the two companies is part of a new master plan for Tesla that, in addition to electric vehicles, would deliver SolarCity solar panels, Tesla Powerwall energy storage units and Tesla electric-vehicle charging stations. Tesla and SolarCity plan on Friday to unveil a solar roof product with energy storage and EV charging capabilities, and Tesla on Tuesday plans to provide additional financial information about its plans for a merged company.

In the letter Wednesday, Musk said the combined company could save more than $150 million in costs in the first full year after closing. In the call with analysts, Musk said that if the merger is approved, he expects SolarCity would be “neutral” or a “cash contributor” in the fourth quarter.

Tesla said it still expects to deliver 50,000 vehicles in the second half of this year, with fourth-quarter deliveries of about 25,000 targeted. For the year, it is estimating delivering a total of 80,000 vehicles.

In a surprise announcement last week, Tesla said all vehicles it now produces will have a fully self-driving system, putting it ahead of the pack in the race to full autonomy. It has goals to sell 500,000 vehicles a year by 2018. The electric vehicle manufacturer builds the Model S and Model X. The Model 3 sedan, a $35,000 car that the company has 373,000 reservations for, remains on track, Musk said, and is due out in the second half of 2017.

Musk said the company’s plans don’t include raising additional capital to help with the Model 3 launch and said Tesla “probably won’t” raise capital in the first quarter.

Many analysts believe Tesla needs more money for the Model 3 launch and construction of a Gigafactory in Nevada, and as it moves toward trying to build 500,000 cars a year.

Tesla said it paid off some debt and expanded its liquidity options.

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