Tesla Bonds Downgraded as Production Issues Continue

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk said in a quarterly update that progress is being made in stepping up production of its new Model 3 electric vehicle
AFP

Tesla will reportedly be looking for additional cash soon as the company struggles with production issues.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Elon Musk’s electric car manufacturing company Tesla may be in trouble as it continues to operate on a negative cash flow while production issues for their Model 3 vehicle mount. Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the company’s debt this week and generally has a negative outlook on the credit due to “the likelihood that Tesla will have to undertake a large, near-term capital raise in order to refund maturing obligations and avoid a liquidity shortfall.”

The company’s bonds, which was issued last summer, are due in 2025 and was quoted at approximately 90 cents on the dollar — but the company’s stock has dropped by almost 23 percent this month. The company’s financials are reportedly beginning to look increasingly worrying, Tesla had $3.4 billion in cash and equivalents at the end of last year and raised $550 million from bonds backed by lease payments this February, but not all of that is available for spending. The company also has $850 million in customer pre-orders, many of which are refundable.

Tesla spent $3.4 billion in cash on “operating cash flow less capital expenditures” last year. If the company keeps up a similar expenditure this year, they’ll run out of spending money before the end of 2018. Some have alleged that the $3.4 billion number was actually understated, which doesn’t bode well for Musk’s car company. While the company’s Model 3 sedan faces huge production issues and delays, it also faces another problem — lack of demand.  According to analysts at Bernstein, less than 30% of customers who were invited to take delivery of the Model 3 have actually purchased the car. Tesla reportedly has $10 billion in long-term debt and has $23 billion in total liabilities.

IHS Markit Securities Finance Director Sam Pierson observed that “while equity short sellers continue to hang around, shorts in the most liquid TSLA bond have made a tidy profit so far in 2018.” However, “They have not covered to lock in the profit, suggesting that they think the credit will continue to deteriorate.” Pierson stated “Tesla shares may be nearing a cross-road. “With the short demand for Tesla increasing through the recent sell-off — and the short demand for bonds fully utilizing the available supply — it appears short sellers are looking for more downside before they begin to cover.” Waiting, in other words, for Tesla to run out of battery power in the middle of a financial superhighway.

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