Tesla, led by celebrity-CEO Elon Musk, has seen its share price climb from $361 on March 18 to an eye-watering high of $1,546 on July 15.
Along the way, the company has been forced to shut down its factory. Musk has threatened to move the factory out of California. The prices of some of its models have been slashed due to a lack of demand. Also, deliveries last quarter were well below projections (but above Musk’s walked-back estimate).
And yet, the share price climbed 328%., making Tesla the most valuable car maker on the planet.
That has at least one longtime observer saying the stock is in a bubble and it will burst soon.
Mark Hulbert, a regular columnist for MarketWatch and the founder of the Hulbert Digest, said in a recent article, “Tesla is a bubble that is going to pop.”
Hulbert points out a study by three Harvard researchers that the more a stock has gained over the recent past, the greater the odds of a crash. With Tesla outpacing the S&P 500 by 324 percentage points over the last two years. Based on the Harvard study (which stopped calculations at 150 basis points) there’s a greater than 80% chance that Tesla’s stock will drop by at least 40% in the next two years.
But those aren’t the only headwinds facing Tesla right now.
Michael Brush, publisher of the Brush Up On Stocks newsletter, says there are seven risks for investors in Tesla right now.
Risk #1: The stock price has gotten too far ahead of fundamentals
Tesla trades at 7.8x forward 12-month revenue, says Todd Lowenstein, an equity strategist at The Private Bank at Union Bank. Compare that to around 0.2 or less for General Motors and Ford, who produce millions of more cars than Tesla every year.
“Tesla strikes me as more speculation than investing at these prices,” says Lowenstein, “It’s pricing in not only massive market-share gains and flawless execution, but world domination.”
Robert Bacarella, who manages the Monetta Fund, added “The stock is not trading on a multiple of today’s or tomorrow’s earnings. It is trading on a multiple of Elon Musk’s dreams.”
Risk #2: Tesla raises more money
With the share price in the stratosphere, it’s widely expected that Elon will raise more capital to shore up the balance sheet. Depending on how much money he chooses to raise, and at what price, current shareholders could be heavily diluted.
Risk #3: The Electric Vehicle market is in a bubble
“We are in a hot market right now,” says Shawn Kim, a research analyst at Gabelli Funds. Kim also thinks several of these companies are just speculative bets. “There is a bit of exuberance in the sector.” If the EV bubble pops, Tesla goes right along with it.
Risk #4: Tesla needs to execute flawlessly
Tesla is forever running around putting out fires. The Chinese factory was reportedly shut down for a while because it ran out of parts to build cars. Additionally, owners have reported missing parts of mismatched parts after taking delivery. But it might be Musk’s promise of “Level 5” autonomous driving that might knock the company down.
“Autonomous driving is one of the toughest problems in artificial intelligence,” cautions Kim. “Maybe Musk is not that close, because it is such a difficult problem.”
Risk #5: S&P 500 inclusion is priced in. What if they don’t get added?
A lot of investors have piled into Tesla thinking it will get a boost if it gets added to the S&P 500 as index funds will have to add it. The idea has been discussed so much it is probably priced into the stock, says Kim.
Risk #6: The overall market feels ‘toppy’
If the tides change and suddenly the market starts dropping, “frothy” stocks like Tesla will get hit hard.
Risk #7: Musk’s hubris
Musk recently announced that Tesla would sell “red satin short-shorts with gold trim” to mock the short-sellers betting against the stock. That’s typically not a good idea and shows too much hubris.