Entrepreneur

Greatest Corporate Showman on Earth

Tesla’s 1Q 2019 results were dreadful. CM has long held that Tesla is a basket case. The ever charismatic Elon Musk is trying to fan the flames of his company with dying embers. The question is where do we start on this diabolical 1Q report?

1. Musk started off with cash to speak to solvency. Tesla talks to $2.2bn in cash and equivalents. Down $1.5b, partly due to a $920m convertible repayment. Don’t forget Tesla has $6.5bn in recourse debt and $3.5bn in non-recourse debt. It has payables and accrued liabilities of another $5.5bn offset with receivables of just over $1bn.

2. Model S/X deliveries fell from 21,067 in 1Q 2018 to 12,091 in 1Q 2019. That’s -56% at the high margin premium car end. Musk claimed it was due to demand pull forward with a reduction in tax credits. Well he just proved that without credits, demand suffers appreciably.

Model 3 production was 3% higher on the quarter but deliveries were 20% lower. Note customer deposits total $768m, marginally down on the previous quarter. If Tesla starts to implode, customers have a right to get those credits back. Residual values aren’t holding as we discuss in pt.5.

3. Solar deployed -38% year on year

4. (Battery) Storage deployed -39%YoY

5. CM made it clear in point 11 of the 30 reasons why Tesla will be a bug on a windshield report,

The Tesla Residual Value Guarantee, while well intentioned carried risks that crucified the leasing arms of the Big 3. After the tech bubble collapsed at the turn of the century, do you remember the ‘Keep America Rolling’ programme, which was all about free financing for five years? While sales were helped along nicely, the reality was it stored up pain…Goldberg & Hegde’s Residual Value Risk and Insurance study in 2009 suggested on average 92% of cars returned to leasing companies recorded losses on return of up to 12%. Any company can guarantee the price of its used product in theory, the question is whether used car buyers will be willing to pay for it. Sadly Tesla does not get a say in what the consumer will be willing to pay.”

In the 1Q 2019 result, Musk admits that Tesla suffered $121m impairment on residual value guarantees (RVG). Is it any wonder they stopped this scheme. Now it’s payback time. There are $480mn worth of RVGs still on the balance sheet that are unlikely to have been marked to market values.

6. Level 5 autonomous driving is a pipe dream in the near term. 20+ years away. A fleet of Tesla taxis is an even bigger thought bubble. Regulation will put that on the back burner. The current level 2 systems have already shown significant short comings given the numerous beta testing deaths at the wheel of the Tesla auto pilot.

7. Musk is doing a stealth cash raise by putting a time limit on auto pilot upgrades. The question is when will the next cap raise come. His noise around Tesla taxis, Level 5 autonomous systems, Model Y all speak to the snake oil promises that he needs to distract investors from what is clearly going on.

8. His public spat with his biggest supplier, Panasonic, will not end well. Suppliers have to be on board with production expansion. Panasonic is cooling off its relationship. Musk publicly slapped the Japanese battery maker. It doesn’t augur well for the rest of the supply chain either to see these ructions

Peter DeLorenzo wrote the following with respect to Musk,

That this latest charade from Musk is yet another desperate act in an attempt at saving his floundering company is obvious. Where it differs from other Muskian braggadocio is the fact that he is insisting that his AV technology is safe for mass application and consumption. Sorry to disappoint all of the St. Elon acolytes out there, but this is the insane part…

…Unleashing a fleet of zombie Teslas on the streets of America curated by a notorious nanosecond-attention-span personality such as Musk is the quintessential definition of flat-out crazy. You can’t even squint hard enough to suggest that this is, in some way, shape, or form, rational thought. It’s a case of an intermittently brilliant mind that has wandered over the line into the Abyss of Darkness. A dangerous mind that is so obsessed with pushing his perpetually sinking car company into some sort of elevated stratosphere that he is willing to treat real people as so much collateral damage...

This country is 25 years away – at least – from widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles. Yes, there will be scaled deployment in limited, commercial applications primarily in urban centers over the next two decades, but driverless Teslas careening around less than two years from now? It is a recipe for disaster the likes of which simply defies calculation.”

All the reasons CM has disliked Tesla remain. It is so chronically overvalued. This stock will be lucky to be $100 by year end. Sadly the economy is slowing meaning it will be tougher to compete with more competition launching this year. China may give cause for some future hope but don’t bet on it.

The more Musk talks, the more desperate he is. Don’t forget he is not learning from SEC requests to lay off Twitter. His guidance in 1Q is lower than recent tweets suggesting appreciably higher targets. Tesla is a time bomb.

Using Extinction Rebellion for free publicity

How one should take a letter written to the Times with a pinch of salt. When estimates of lost business caused by the Extinction Rebellion (XR) were purported to be in the millions of pounds, the following executives put their names to the following letter saying it was for the greater good. Given that most co-signatories aren’t retail stores that are being inconvenienced in the thick of the protest, the letter appears far more about free publicity than environmental heroics.

We attach their own published business models in brackets below. We also attach the distance of each HQ from the protest epicenter. It’s easy to say how woke you are about impacting local businesses when you’re nowhere near it. Read on

The letter to the Times

Sir, Contrary to belief, there is business support for the Extinction Rebellion (XR) agenda. The multi million-pound costs that the Extinction Rebellion protests have imposed on business are regrettable, as is the inconvenience to Londoners. But future costs imposed on our economies by the climate emergency will be many orders of magnitude greater.

Hard pressure drives change, but even the most committed businesses will need time to respond. We welcome the news that  Extinction Rebellion is evolving a new platform, XR Business, to engage business leaders, investors and advisers. To drive things forward, the idea is to convene a meeting of XR activists and experts with business leaders and influencers.

Most businesses were not designed in the context of the developing climate emergency. Hence  we must urgently redesign entire industries and businesses, using science-based targets. 

To kick start the process, businesses should make a declaration that we face a climate emergency and organise a session at a full board meeting to consider the case for urgent action. We will encourage the senior management teams of which we are part to do likewise.

Signed

Seb Beloe, partner at WHEB

(“WHEB is a positive impact investor focused on the opportunities created by the transition to a low carbon and sustainable global economy.“)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 1.3km

——

Thomas Bourne, CEO and co-founder, Greenheart Business Ltd

(“Using the B Corp framework to assess, plan for and embed positive social & environmental impact improvements within your business – from specific operational improvements through to comprehensive or transformational (i.e. business model) change.)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 337.6km

——
Amy Clarke, co-founder, Tribe Impact Capital LLC

(“We use the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework for uncovering client’s values and to measure and report portfolio performance…To facilitate this we have created four Tribe Themes…we actively select positive investments that directly contribute to global sustainable development and address a social, economic or environmental issue society is facing.)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 3.5km

——
Chris Davis, CSO, The Body Shop International Ltd

(Social activism has been a part of the Body Shop since 1986 when it proposed an alliance with Greenpeace to save the whales. “Protecting and regenerating habitats is also known as ‘re-wilding’. Find out how you can help us re-wild the world and protect our animal friends by fighting against deforestation and the destruction of natural habitats.“)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 107.2km

——–

John Elkington co-founder and Louise Kjellerup Roper, CEO, Volans Ventures Ltd

(“By conducting inquiries into our planet’s most wicked problems, we help business drive positive change at an unprecedented pace and scale.“)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 3.2km
——-

Brad Frankel, CEO and co-founder, Flooglebinder Ltd

(“Our aim is to inspire students to become changemakers and future leaders through a range of educational programmes that connect young people with the outdoors. Our programmes firmly adhere to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. By understanding, enjoying and respecting these environments through adventure and play, we hope to develop more global citizens and positive ambassadors for our planet.“)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 267.2km
—–

Jake Hayman, CEO, Ten Years’ Time

(“Whether the cause area is climate change or economic fairness, mental health, homelessness or education, we work with those who are ready to leave the safe ideas behind and want instead to understand, challenge and do their bit to reinvigorate failing systems.“)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 6.4km

——

Jeremy Leggett, founder and director, Solarcentury Ltd

(“We’re in business for a purpose: to make a meaningful difference in the fight against climate change through the widespread adoption of solar power.“)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 4.8km

——

Charmian Love and Amanda Feldman, co-founders, Heliotropy Ltd

(“We broker partnerships across sectors  to support private sector engagement in social and environmental issues.“)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 6.4km

—-
Andy Middleton, founder and chief exploration officer, TYF Group

(“Our mission is to inspire long lives of adventure, and promote discovery and care for nature.We create life changing adventures with a light touch on nature, focus young people’s sight & skills for the future and help organisations with innovation & sustainability. We play for the planet.“)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 387.2km

—-
Safia Minney, founder & Former CEO, People Tree Fair Trade group.

(“Fairtrade promotes training on climate change mitigation for farmers. For example, some training offers advice on switching to environmentally friendly practices, such as developing nutrient-rich soils that support healthy plants and encouraging wildlife to help control pests and diseases.“)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 3.2km

—–
James Perry, partner, Snowball LLP

(“Project Snowball LLP is a pioneering investment organisation that targets social and environmental impact alongside financial return.“)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 60.8km

——
Paul Polman, former CEO, Unilever plc

(“The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan sets out to decouple our growth from our environmental footprint, while increasing our positive social impact. “)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 361.6km

—–
Samer Salty, co-founder and managing partner, Zouk Capital LLP

(“Zouk’s ESG Policy includes an Ethical Investment Policy for negative screening and an innovative and bespoke methodology for assessing the value creation across Environmental, Social, and Governance principles driven by the portfolio companies…Zouk adheres to and is a signatory of the United Nation’s Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI) and is also fully Carbon Neutral.“)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 3.2km

—–
Sir Tim Smit, founder of The Eden Project, executive chairman of Eden Regeneration Ltd

(“Get a feel for what we believe in – from the way we run our site to the transformational social and environmental projects that we run on our doorstep and around the world.“)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 396.8km

—–
Hermione Taylor, CEO and founder, The Do Nation Enterprise Ltd

(“If changing behaviours was easy, we’d all be super-fit with PhDs, empty inboxes and spotless bathrooms. And, what’s more, climate change probably wouldn’t be a problem.“)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 6.4km

—–
Diana Verde Nieto, CEO and co-founder, Positive Luxury Ltd

(“Fashion recycling has been on the rise in recent years – so how are consumers shopping pre-worn today? To celebrate Earth Day, we investigate the popularity of the more environmentally-friendly way to stay stylish.“)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 4.8km

—–
Dale Vince OBE, founder, The Ecotricity Group

(“We’ll use the money from your energy bills to develop new sources of green energy. So you can help build a green Britain – just by being with us.“)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 171.2km

—–
Bevis Watts, managing director, Triodos Bank UK

(“Our bank was founded on the conviction that banking can be a powerful force for good. We offer a range of financial and banking services to savers, investors and entrepreneurs who want to change the world for the better. By connecting these groups, we are building a community of people united in their desire to make a positive impact on society, culture and environment.“)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 189km

—–
Tim Westwell, co-founder and former CEO, Pukka

(“Doing good things helps make good things happen. We create things that help you, help nature and everything inbetween. It’s called conservation through commerce – striving to positively change the world for you, business and the planet.“)

HQ Distance from XR protest: 182.6km

—–
Gail Bradbrook (co-founder)  Extinction Rebellion
Fiona Ellis (XR Business)

We’ve covered XR in previous posts. They’re leading this disruption.

—-

So there you have it. Every co-signatory has a vested interest with a business model attached to climate change. Many advertise the brands of other collaborators on their respective websites. There is nothing woke about signing a letter which seeks self promotion. Is this about saving the planet or cynically riding off the back of a movement to get press based marketing?
It is so typical of a growing number of companies today. Kowtowing to this politically correct nonsense for fear of being singled out. Look at the corporate virtue signaling from Gillette, Colgate, Starbucks etc etc. In Gillette’s case, post it’s toxic masculinity campaign, a YouGov poll took it from 7th out of 45 health and beauty brands to bottom.
CM wonders whether XR Business will hound corporates into signing up for this nonsense for threat of being named and shamed. Sadly many boards seem too timid to stand up to lashing by social media. So much for looking after shareholders!

Vegan activists need caging more than goats

Well done to the lunatic vegan activists whose harassment led to the closure of The Gippy Goat Cafe in the Democratic People’s Republic of Victoria. 8 people have lost their jobs as a result of a legitimate business not being able to operate because of the weak application of laws from the judiciary based on toned down charges dispensed by law enforcement. It makes you wonder how theft, trespass and threats of violence don’t rate a mention with the police. At the very least these activists should be forced to pay for the redundancy costs and years of lost revenue caused by their actions. Why should the owners lose a business they invested in all because of the intolerance of the radical left? How much were the activists fined each? $1 for biosecurity breaches! What a farce.

This is what the owners had to say yesterday,

The Gippy Goat Café has decided to close, today will be our last day. We would like to thank our dedicated staff, our social media followers and loyal customers for your unfailing support but we do not have the heart to continue the café. This was not an easy decision to reach, however for the sake of our health and safety and that of our families and staff we feel that it is regrettably the best option.

Our staff and customers have been subjected to nearly 4 months of constant harassment, vile statements and threats from the abusive vegan activists. We have personally been subjected to an appalling stream of threats of extreme violence against ourselves, our family, our staff and even their families. Our staff have been subjected to daily threats and harassment by phone, and we cannot in good conscience ask them to continue working under such a condition. Our social media and review sites have been subjected to false information and artificially poor ratings. The courts have proven to be ineffectual, the enforcement agencies declined to prosecute to the full extent, so, to the thieves, trespassers and activists; you have won. Rejoice in your victory: eight good people are now without a job, families no longer can enjoy the good food and open space, and children can no longer interact with our animals. Society is the loser; the anonymous bullies, hypocrites, lawbreakers and self-professed paragons of moral and social justice have won. Please know that your ignorant indignation, lust for outrage and the false reality you inhabit through your social media streams will prevent you from effecting any positive societal change – only harm to real human beings – and you only have yourselves to thank.

Our farm will continue to operate as before, but is no longer open to the public. We are truly sorry for any disappointment this may cause.

John & Penny

We can be sure that if John & Penny trespassed onto one of the vegan’s properties, these activists would demand the stiffest penalties by dispensed the courts. So typical with the radical left, only their voices have legitimacy.

Tesla – Musk baits the regulator again?

Anton Wahlman on Seeking Alpha has reported that Tesla held a secret telephone conference call to a limited audience which apparently contradicted statements made earlier in the public domain. If true, from a pure compliance and governance perspective that would violate fair disclosure rules. It is surprising that given Elon Musk’s run ins with the SEC that shareholders would hope he’d look to avoid further investigation rather than taunt the regulator.

According to the call transcript, Tesla provided new profit/loss guidance to the select few on the call. Even more bizarre is that Deutsche Bank compliance apparently let its Tesla analyst publish a report on March 1 based on the contents of the call, including margin guidance on the $35,000 Model 3 which was not divulged to others.

CM has always held that Tesla is an amateur car maker. Luring owners to deposit a non refundable $2,500 for a $35,000 Model 3 smacks of a silent fund raising to keep the ship afloat.

The company recently admitted it would close much of its dealer network and move to mobile servicing. Cute in principal but unlikely to be sustainable. Mainstream makers know that dealer/service networks are vital to keeping customers connected. If large recalls need to be conducted, mobile units aren’t going to cut it.

None of the above really surprises. Owning Tesla is sort of like joining a cult. The preachings from the fearless leader are designed to keep the disciples fiercely loyal. However if the government gets enough evidence to gather the SWAT team it will swarm the compound. This company is not worth anything like $50bn. Grab your popcorn.

Doing what it says on the tin

How often do we buy products that don’t do what they claim? In the case of “Start ya bastard” it is a question of whether they spent more on the marketing than the R&D. Let’s hope the compelled speech brigade don’t attack this Aussie icon! CM is sure Nulon can make some fruitier arguments to protect the brand.

Carlos Ghosn facing arrest

The Asahi Shimbun says Nissan group President Carlos Ghosn is expected to face arrest by prosecutors for underreporting salary. Noone should be above the law but to think of the number of jobs at Nissan he saved plus the return to record profitability makes CM think the tax man is well ahead on the trade.