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Growth Stocks: Tesla

18:47 2023. január 24.

$24,618 million in revenue. That is the figure estimated by the consensus of analysts for the end of the fourth quarter. For each revenue category, the estimate is based on what was at the time reasonable growth during the third quarter, as published on page 5 of Tesla's 10-Q report.

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Tesla (Q3) and estimates for Q4

Sales Estimates vs Leasing

Obviously, the most important figure for estimating revenue is the car sales figure, which is also the category we know the most about due to the recent production and delivery ("P&D") report. Using the two most recent reports, the following information can be derived:

Tesla and Consensus Estimates

Although the fourth-quarter numbers are exactly what Tesla reported in the fourth-quarter P&D report, consensus made minor adjustments to the third-quarter P&D numbers. Tesla only provides in these reports the percentage of cars leased (not the specific number) in the delivery figure, rounded to the nearest percentage.

When the third quarter shareholder letter was subsequently released, a total of 11,004 leased vehicles were reported, meaning the total leasing percentage was more accurately around 3.2%, but the letter does not provide a breakdown. of the S/X vs. 3/Y models. The original S/X total was kept in the previous table and adjusted in the case of 3/Y as they are the most accessible models and with the greatest demand. In reality, the S/X rents could have been anywhere between 1,713 and 1,960 (9.5%-10.5%) with a similar unit range possible from the 3/Y rents.

Data breakdown

Auto Sales: Unit sales increased 16.9% in the fourth quarter. However, sales of S/X at higher prices actually fell. We also know that there were price drops, mainly in China. As a result, a 14% increase in revenue is estimated, which may be a bit optimistic.

Leasing: New leases are up about 55% in the last quarter, but this does not translate to a 55% increase in rental revenue. Under normal lease accounting, lease income is normally taken pro rata over the lease term. Complicating matters further is the fact that there are always expired old leases, and even new leases would only be in effect for part of the quarter. Finally, Tesla discloses that some rentals are sales-type leases, or "leases," meaning that in certain cases, all of the rental income (or at least the present value of the leases) is recognized upfront. In any case, quarterly rental income has fluctuated between $558 million and $688 million in the past year with no clearly discernible pattern. And the market gives this parameter an increase of 5% last quarter.

Growth in services and other revenues: have been surprisingly strong over the past year, ranging from 12% to 20% per quarter, though only resulting in a 12% increase in the third quarter. The increase in this category was expected to more closely track the size of Tesla's total "installed base" (cumulative sales). Applying an increase of 19%.

Energy Generation and Storage: Estimated quarterly revenue growth of 26% for this category, in part because this is the area where investors expect rapid growth. To some extent, it's also a "plug" in my attempt to justify analysts' median estimate of $24.62bn in revenue.

So far we see how to try to justify the estimate of income by consensus, it seems difficult while optimistic results are projected in some parameters. As a result, it appears that the volatility in the value shows that investors are more betting on a miss at $24.620 million than an improvement. It is also interesting that the updated consensus estimate has corrected by about $160 million in recent days, probably as a late reaction to the disappointment in the December deliveries data.

Fourth Quarter Net Income and Expenses

Tesla (Q3) and Q4 estimates

The consensus estimate does not provide a net income figure, only diluted EPS. Therefore, the upper table is developed from diluted EPS until revenue is achieved, to later review the data in reverse, that is, from “bottom up” to “top down”.

The diluted share count only increased by 3 million in the third quarter, so being conservative, the consensus increased the analysis for the last quarter by an additional 2 million to arrive at the diluted share count of $3.470 million. Subsequently, it is multiplied by the dilution factor of $1.07 to arrive at a net profit of $3,713 million.


Costs assumptions

In this case, it is “easier” to make estimates regarding to individual cost figures. For all business lines the same gross margins are used as in the actual case in the third quarter. As with operating expenses with the actual amount for the third quarter:

  • Automotive Gross Margin: On the one hand, higher volumes should have helped margins. On the other hand, price cuts during the quarter could have negatively impacted them. As a result, it is assumed that the margins have remained more or less the same.
  • Energy Generation and Storage: If, in fact, revenue from this segment increases as much as indicated above, Tesla's energy storage product margins should have increased. On the other hand, power generation is quite seasonal, with both revenue and margins being much lower in the winter months.
  • Operating expenses: expenses remain the same. Despite the company's growth, Tesla's management has been making statements about trying to rein in spending.
  • Interest: although the amounts are lower, interest income has increased and interest expenses have decreased. Assuming Tesla's cash balance increases and its debt decreases.
  • Income tax: 10% of pre-tax income is used as Tesla's tax rate; it has generally been a little less than that.
  • Finally, to achieve the net income figure of $3,713 million, the “Other (expense)/income” concept is used as a “cap”, which required that amount to be a net expense of $320 million compared to a net expense of $85 million in the prior quarter. In fact, in many quarters this line has shown a smaller amount of net profit.

As a result, and while some may not agree with the specific allocation of revenue and expense items, this is a conservative line to set the starting point and allocate the $320 million elsewhere. For example, regulatory credit revenue, an extremely difficult item to predict, is $326 million, so by setting it to zero, the totals would balance almost perfectly. If a reader thinks that keeping auto gross margin the same despite price cuts in the fourth quarter is unreasonable, then revenue line auto cost of sales could increase by $320 million. (This would cause the gross margin, before regulatory credits, to decrease from 24.2% to 22.8%).

Of course, the reader might also decide that any set of assumptions and estimates that result in $3.7 billion in net income are too conservative, so an earnings increase is likely to be announced this coming Wednesday. The current model seeks to make compression as logical and transparent as possible, allowing readers to make their own adjustments to their liking.


Considerations in favor of Tesla

Income taxes:

Income tax is an extremely complex and widely misunderstood, but potentially very important topic. Tesla only reports certain details about its tax situation once a year.

There are two tables in "Note 14 - Income Tax" on Tesla's 2021 10-K (p. 86) which we see below. Once the 2022 10-K is released (probably within a week of this Wednesday's quarterly report), we expect TSLA investors and stakeholders to compare the 2022 charts with those presented here.

The first table indicates that ALL of Tesla's GAAP pre-tax income was generated abroad (most, if not all, in China) and that it actually experienced a pre-tax loss of $130 million in the US. (As a result, Tesla did not report any tax expenses to the US federal tax agency for 2021.)

Tesla 12/31/21 10-K

These figures are not necessarily 100% aligned with the underlying economy; Companies have some discretion in how to allocate revenue and will generally try to do it in the most logically financially beneficial way. One factor is tax rates; the US federal corporate tax rate is 21%, while Tesla benefits from a 15% preferential rate in China until the end of 2023, as opposed to its statutory rate of 25%.

Items like transfer pricing, overhead allowances, etc., can affect the relative numbers. However, it is fair to say that, at the very least, the vast majority of Tesla's pre-tax income was generated in China in 2021. It will be interesting to see what the 2022 numbers look like. In fact, 2024 should be even more interesting, when China's 25% rate takes effect for Tesla.

We've highlighted the one figure in the footnote's "Deferred Tax Assets" table that investors should focus on, the "Valuation Allowance":

Tesla 12/31/21 10-K

Tesla has established a huge "valuation allocation" of more than $ 9,000 million against its $ 11,000 million, "total deferred tax assets", which is explained in the note under the table:

As of December 31, 2021, we recorded a provision of $ 9,070 million for the portion of the deferred tax assets that we do not expect to make. The reservation of valuation of our deferred net taxes increased by $ 6,140, $ 974 and $ 150 million during the years ended on December 31, 2021, 2020 and 2019, respectively. The changes in the reserve are mainly due to additional assets and liabilities for deferred taxes of the US incurred in the respective year. ..... we continue to monitor the realability of the deferred taxes of US taxes taking into account multiple factors. When completing this evaluation, we consider both objective and subjective factors. These factors included, but were not limited to a history of losses in previous years, excess tax benefits related to share-based compensation, future reversion of existing temporary differences and tax planning strategies. After evaluating all available evidence, we intend to continue maintaining a complete provision in our US deferred tax assets. UU. Until there is sufficient evidence to support the reversal of the totality or part of these provisions. Given the improvement in our operational results and depending on the amount of compensation tax deductions based on shares available in the future, we may release the reservation associated with US deferred tax assets in the coming years. The release of the totality or part of the reservation would result in the recognition of certain deferred tax assets and a decrease in benefit tax spending for the period in which the release is recorded.

The bold parts in the previous note are the most significant points. In particular, the final section establishes that the release of the provision would result in a decrease in tax expense to the benefits of the period; This could be the euphemism of the year. If the entire $ 9,100 reservation was released at once, it would result in a negative fiscal expense of $ 9,000 million and a similar increase in the net benefit for the quarter! Also known as extraordinary.

It is also important to understand how this deferred tax assets arises. There are many differences between GAAP accounting and income tax calculations regarding income and expenses. An example is the accelerated depreciation of equipment allowed by the IRS (US Treasury). As a result, depreciation spending may be higher in the tax declaration than in GAAP statements, which may even be a benefit (according to GAAP) but an taxable loss for a company and, therefore, should not pay Income taxes, when doing so accounting for a loss.

One difference, which in Tesla's case is huge, is the exercise treatment of (vanilla) stock options. Although the actual exercise of the options does not affect GAAP statements (instead, the theoretical expense for them would have been previously recorded), the IRS allows an expense entry for the difference between the market value of the stock and the option exercise price in your income, with applicable taxes.

Of course, in 2021, Musk exercised much of his stock option grant granted in 2012. CNBC estimated that he had a potential profit of $28 billion based on the market price at the time of grant, which is taxable in when the options are exercised, even if the shares are not sold. Tesla was able to record this same amount as an expense on its tax return. Having a taxable deduction of $28 billion means that, at the federal corporate rate of 21%, this will save Tesla almost $6 billion in taxes if it ever uses it. Although the gross deferred tax asset increased by around $6 billion, the company's management decided to increase the allocation by a similar amount due to the uncertainty associated with exercising the right, resulting in almost no change in the tax asset. net deferred by approximately $2,000 million.

The logic behind the IRS rule is that if Tesla had paid Musk the $28 billion in cash compensation, it would have been a deductible expense, so giving him $28 billion in stock shouldn't be treated any differently. However, because of this provision, some large and profitable corporations with generous executive compensation plans have had to pay little or no income tax, and it has become a topic of even political discussion. Although the laws in this regard were changed for options granted after 2017. As a result, Musk's 2018 options will not receive such generous treatment.

An additional issue that Tesla investors should be aware of is the "Reducing Inflation Act" passed last summer about which Tesla stated the following in its 10-Q dated September 30, 2022 (p. 16):

On August 16, 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (“IRA”) was enacted and is in effect for tax years beginning after December 31, 2022. The IRA includes multiple incentives to promote clean energy , electric vehicles, batteries, manufacture or purchase of storage systems, in addition to a new 15% alternative business minimum tax on the results of the adjusted financial statements of companies with profits greater than $1,000 million. These actions may materially affect our consolidated financial statements, and we will continue to evaluate the applicability and effect of the IRA as further guidance is issued.

While final implementing rules have not yet been determined, the new AMT (The AMT is the excess of the tentative minimum tax over the regular tax. Therefore, the AMT is due only if the tentative minimum tax for the year is greater than the regular tax for that year (the tentative minimum tax is calculated separately from the regular tax) could have a significant impact on how and where Tesla reports revenue and what its reported tax rate becomes in the future. Also, if Tesla realizes a one-time benefit by reversing the allocation of its deferred tax assets, it would probably have to start reporting a higher tax rate on its GAAP returns. However, I think it would not be necessary to write checks to the IRS until the allowance is exhausted, subject to how you are affected by the new AMT rules.


Partial amortization of Tesla's solar lease portfolio:

Tesla has a solar leasing portfolio with a net book value of more than $5.5 billion (most of which was purchased from Solar City). The company has been amortizing the portfolio based on the assumption that most of its clients will renew their leases when they come due, which on average last 15-20 years.

This seems like an unrealistic assumption as many clients may not. Some of the previous leases had initial maturities of only 10 years and were originated by Solar City more than 10 years ago. As a result, Tesla must be starting to get some real data on renewal rates. If they are significantly lower than anticipated, Tesla may be required to perform partial depreciation and increase depreciation amounts for future years. It would not be a surprise if a writedown in the range of $500 million or more was eventually required.

Technical analysis

Since the beginning of 2023, the market has begun to consider that Elon Musk's company is better valued with respect to its fundamentals or, at least, is closer to more realistic levels. We must remember that Tesla sells a fraction of the vehicles delivered by some of its big competitors like Toyota or Volkswagen and that its market capitalization is excessive at best.

TSLA H1 chart. Source: xStation

its stock now appears to be starting to pick up, and the recent price cut in the US will allow the company to sell more vehicles thanks to the $7,000 grant. The technical structure shows a bullish channel supported by RSI, which after the bullish divergence keeps Tesla with a recovery from lows of 41%


While we will never have a calm moment with Tesla, it appears to be especially volatile right now, with new factories ramping up, significant price cuts being announced in several of its markets, and a series of tax "breaks." This may make the soon-to-be-announced year-end financial results and associated commentary particularly illuminating.


Darío García, EFA
XTB Spain


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