Tesla’s Value Dips Below $500 Billion in Blow to Stock Bulls

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(Bloomberg) — Tesla Inc. shares extended their decline for 2024, pushing the electric-vehicle maker’s market valuation below $500 billion, as a round of job cuts this week underscored how much the company’s growth has slowed.

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The stock tumbled as much as 4.8% to below $154 at one point on Tuesday in New York, and is down some 37% this year. Tesla shares are the second-biggest decliner on the S&P 500 Index in 2024, erasing about $290 billion in shareholder wealth. The company hasn’t closed with a market value under $500 billion since late April of last year.

“The retrenchment in employment and capacity has far-reaching implications for the hypergrowth narrative still embedded in Tesla’s share price, suggesting material downside risk for the stock,” said Ryan Brinkman, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The layoffs announced Monday, “amounting to a reduction in crewed production capacity, should now leave no doubt that the decline in deliveries has been a function of lower demand and not supply,” Brinkman said.

The company’s troubles started in October when it warned that demand for EVs was starting to slow, but the full extent of that weakness only became apparent this month when Tesla reported first-quarter sales significantly below analysts’ expectations. Those numbers rekindled investor concerns about Tesla’s growth trajectory, which were exacerbated by news that the company intends to scrap plans to make a cheaper EV and focus on building a so-called robotaxi instead.

That pivot — Musk said the company will unveil its robotaxi in August — comes as Tesla’s profit outlook is darkening quickly, as it has repeatedly resorted to lowering the price of its vehicles to attract buyers.

Fresh Blow

The announcement of large-scale job cuts was just the latest blow, but it drove home the demand risks, analysts said. On top of that, two key executives left the company, further depressing sentiment.

The fading interest from consumers, which is plaguing EV-makers globally, is a more dire scenario for Tesla shares than for other carmakers. That’s because the Elon Musk-led company commands a hefty valuation premium, partly based on its potential to dominate the EV industry of the future. However, Musk himself has said the company will be “worth basically zero” unless it can solve the problem of self-driving cars.

But analysts and investors say that while building a fully self-driving vehicle is crucial for Tesla’s prospects, making an affordable EV is important to drive growth in the meantime. That’s especially since most experts agree that it may take decades for self-driving cars to see mass adoption.

“The near-term bull case for Tesla is that investors are awaiting the launch of a lower-cost platform that will dramatically reinvigorate growth,” said David Wagner, a portfolio manager at Aptus Capital Advisors. “But the market is realizing that this may be unlikely, as the $25,000 car already exists today – China’s BYD makes it.”

Chinese EV-maker BYD Co. overtook Tesla as the world’s biggest seller of electric cars in the last three months of 2023. Though the company doesn’t sell its vehicles in the US, it has several affordably priced EVs in its lineup.

Tesla reports first-quarter results on April 23, and the stakes are rising fast for the company. Investors will be looking for an explanation as to why it’s making a strategic shift at a time when growth is in doubt.

(Updates stock move in second paragraph, comments starting in third.)

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