Tesla posts record $710m net loss as it struggles to produce Model 3 cars

Elon Musk get testy with analysts amid concerns over companys future, after it burned through $745.3 m in money during important quarter

Tesla posted a record $709.6 m net loss in the first quarter and burned through $745.3 m in money while struggling to crank out large numbers of its Model 3 mass-market electric car.

The loss and cash burn announced Wednesday raised questions about the company’s future and whether it would be able to pay all of its bills by early next year without more borrowing or the other round of stock sales.

During a sometimes-testy conference call with analysts, Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, conceded that criticism was valid but said it was ” quite likely” the company would make money and have positive cash flow in the third quarter.

” It’s high time we became profitable ,” told Musk, who also promised restructuring this month to attain earning goals.” The truth is you’re not a real company until you are, frankly. That’s our focus right now .”

But Tesla investors dedicated a rare rebuke to Musk after he cut off analysts asking about future gain potential, sending shares down 5% despite promises that production of the troubled Model 3 electric car was on track.

Tesla stock was little changed after the earnings announcement but fell during a conference call with analysts, when Musk began cutting analysts’ topics short, expensing Tesla over$ 2bn in market capitalization.

” These questions are so dry. They’re killing me ,” Musk told after an analyst asked what percentage of Tesla 3 reservation holders have started to configure options for their vehicles, an indicator of how much gain Tesla will be able to wring from the vehicles. Another analyst asked about a capital requirement before being cut off.

He then took several questions in a row about plans for a self-driving vehicle network and other long-term projects from the host of a YouTube channel focused on investing, praising the questions as not boring.

Tesla said its net loss amounted to $4.19 per share. Excluding one-time expenditures such as stock-based compensation, the company lost $3.35 per share. Revenue grew by 26% from a year ago to $3.4 bn.

The giant loss in a critical quarter for the 15 -year-old company fell short of Wall Street estimates. Analysts polled by FactSet expected an adjusted loss of $3.54 per share. Revenue, however, exceeded estimates of $3.28 bn.

In April, Tesla said it would not need to return to marketplaces for more capital because it expected to generate cash from sales of the Model 3. But it has had trouble getting them out the door to several hundred thousand people who put down $1,000 deposits to order one.

Moody’s Investor Service downgraded Tesla’s debt into junk province back in March, alerting at the time that Tesla didn’t have money to covering $3.7 bn for normal operations, capital expenses and debt that come due early next year. At the end of last year the company had a total of $9.5 bn in long-term debt.

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A Tesla Model 3 at an auto show in China. Photograph: Roman Pilipey/ EPA

” The negative outlook reflects the likelihood that Tesla will have to undertake a large, near-term capital raise in order to refund ripening obligations and avoid a liquidity shortfall ,” Moody’s wrote in a note to investors.

Tesla has had only two profitable quarterss in its virtually eight years as a public company.

The key to raising money to cover-up expenses is production of the Model 3 mass-market electric car, which starts at $35,000 but can easily top $50,000 with options.

Musk said the restructuring would involve getting rid of third-party contractors that have grown out of control.” We’re going to scrub barnacles on that front ,” he said.
He admitted that Tesla made a mistake by adding too much automation too quickly at the factory.

The plant has missed Musk’s forecasts by a wide mark. When production started last summer he promised to build 20,000 Model 3s during the course of its month of December. Instead, Tesla induced merely 2,425 during the course of its entire fourth quarter.

Then Tesla forecast 10,000 Model 3s per month at the end of the first one-quarter. As it turned out, only under 9,800 were assembled from January through March, Tesla said in April. The Fremont, California factory was shut down for four or five days last month to clear production bottlenecks, Tesla said.

The company, which also makes solar panel, predicted in April that production would climb rapidly through the second one-quarter and reach about 5,000 vehicles per week- which would return Tesla to its originally promised 20,000 per month rate- around the end of June. It predicted high marketings and strong cash flow in the third one-quarter.” As a outcome Tesla does not require an equity or indebtednes create this year, apart from standard credit lines ,” the company said.

The Model 3 is the most important piece of Tesla’s plan to become a mainstream automaker. At one point it had more than 500,000 potential purchasers on a waiting list. But in April the company conceded that some had canceled, although women refused to give numbers. Tesla said reservations “remained stable” through the first quarter.

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