Tesla reports big first quarter loss


Red ink returns —

Many cars were in transit to Europe at quarter’s end, dragging down revenues.

Timothy B. Lee

Elon Musk.

Enlarge/Elon Musk.

After two back-to-back quarters of profits, Tesla lost $702 million in the first quarter of 2019, the company announced on Wednesday.

Tesla has been expected to post a loss for the quarter ever since the company admitted earlier his month that it had suffered a big drop in Model S and Model X deliveries. But the quarter’s losses were larger than many Wall Street analysts expected.

Markets weren’t fazed by the negative earnings news. After initially falling about 2 percent, Tesla’s stock price bounced back and is now about where it was when the earnings numbers were released.

Cash on hand fell from $3.7 billion at the start of the year to $2.2 billion at the end of March. However, this isn’t as grim as it might look because this primarily reflects Tesla paying off a $920 million loan that came due in March.

Total revenue for the quarter was $4.5 billion. That was a big decline from the fourth quarter of 2018 and was below analyst expectations. But it still represented a significant increase from the Q1 2018 figure of $3.4 billion.

Both Tesla’s declining cash and its weak revenue figure reflect the fact that Tesla had a lot of cars in transit to customers at the end of the quarter. Many of those cars were part of a big push to sell the Model 3 in Europe. Most of those sales will conclude early in the current quarter providing a boost to the second quarter’s financial numbers.

In a conference call following the earnings call, company executives said they expected another quarterly loss in the second quarter, followed by a possible profit in the third quarter. Tesla is projecting 90,000 to 100,000 deliveries in the second quarter, up from 63,000 in the first quarter. Tesla says it still expects to deliver between 360,000 and 400,000 vehicles for the year, which implies the company will deliver at least 100,000 vehicles per quarter for the rest of the year.

An investor asked Elon Musk whether Tesla should raise more money given the company’s relatively low cash balance. Musk said he was open to doing so but didn’t think it was necessary right away.

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