‘Battle-worn’ Tesla backer recommends taking profit amid surge
The spectacular rally by Tesla Inc. stock – it’s more than doubled in three months – has finally pushed a long-time bullish analyst to the sidelines, saying investors’ expectations for the electric-car maker now appear to be “fairly calibrated.”
Robert W Baird & Co. analyst Ben Kallo, has had a buy-equivalent rating on Tesla since March 2016, through some of the company’s most tumultuous periods. He downgraded his view on Thursday, saying the “risk/reward is more balanced following recent stock appreciation.” He now has the equivalent of a hold rating on Tesla but boosted his price target to $525 from $355.
“After several years at an outperform rating, which included contentious arguments with (evidently) high-conviction bears, we recommend profit taking,” Kallo wrote in a note to clients, adding that he was “battle-worn” after a tough two years.
Tesla shares have staged a dazzling comeback in the past few months after lackluster performance in the first half of 2019. The stock has gained almost 18% in just the handful of trading days so far in 2020.
The sentiment turned sharply after Tesla posted a surprise third-quarter profit in late October, further helped by news of strong demand in China and, most recently, better-than-expected fourth-quarter deliveries.
The company’s market value is now greater than that of General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co.’s combined, and the shares were hovering close to $500 on Thursday, rising as much as 1.4% to touch $498.80.
Short interest in Tesla is still high, though it has recently come down considerably. Kallo, however, does not recommend shorting the stock.
“Despite (overly dynamic) short arguments since inception, the company has continued to grow and execute,” Kallo said, adding that he expected that trend to continue.
Tesla also got a shoutout from Sanford C Bernstein & Co. analyst Toni Sacconaghi on Thursday, who said the carmaker’s dynamic pricing and direct distribution model were an “underrated competitive advantage versus traditional automakers.”