Tesla

Buhahahahaha

In 1999, CM was told by the pro-EV lobby that electric cars would be 10% or the market by 2010. In 2019 EVs are struggling to nudge 1.3%. If EV’s have managed to achieve much more than 10-12% by 2035 it will be a miracle.

10 reasons it will be highly unlikely:

1) Australia sold just over 1.15m cars in 2018. In 2008, SUVs comprised 19% of total sales. Today 43%. So much for the unbridled panic about catastrophic climate change if consumption patterns are a guide.

2) Australian fuel excise generates 5% of total tax revenue. It is forecast to grow from $19bn today to $24bn by 2021. If government plans to subsidize then it’ll likely to add to the deficit, especially if it lobs $5,000 per car subsidies on 577,000 cars (50% of 2018 unit sales in Australia).

CM has always argued that governments will eventually realize that moving to full EV policy will mean losing juicy ‘fuel excise’. Point 16 on page 19 for those interested.

Cash strapped Illinois has proposed the introduction of a $1,000 annual registration fee (up from $17.50) to account for the fact EVs don’t pay such fuel taxes. Note Illinois has the lowest investment grade among any other American state and has to allocate 40% of its budget just to pay outstanding bills. It is also home to one of the largest state pension unfunded deficits per capita in the country.

3) cash for clunkers? If the idea is to phase out fossil fueled powered cars, surely the resale/trade in values will plummet to such a degree that trading it on a new EV makes no sense at all. False economy trade where fossil fuel owners will hold onto existing cars for longer.

4) Global EV production is 2.1m units. Looking at existing production plans by 2030, it is likely to be around 12mn tops on a conservative basis. Australia would need want 5% of world EV supply when were only 1.2% of global car sales. Many auto makers are committed to selling 50% of EV capacity into China. So Shorten will be fighting for the remaining pie. No car makers will export 10% of all EV production to Australia without substantial incentives to do so.

Don’t forget Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also intends to get every fossil fueled powered car off the road in a decade. The US has 270 million registered vehicles, the overwhelming majority being petrol powered. The US sells 16-17mn cars a year (sadly slowing). Therefore in the US, 16 years would be required to achieve that target.

5) Ethics of EVs. To save the planet, the majority of cobalt to go into making the batteries comes from African mines which use child slave laborers. There is a moral scruple to keep a virtue signaling activist awake at night!

Not to worry, Glencore has just announced last week it is closing its cobalt capacity in DR Congo which will flip the market from surplus to deficit (at 1.2% global market share). Oops.

6) EV makers aren’t happy. In Europe there are over 200 cities with EV programs but none are alike. In the quest to outdo each other on the virtue signaling front, car makers are struggling to meet such diverse requirements meaning roll outs will be slow because there is no movement to standardize.

7) EV suppliers aren’t convinced. Because of the above, many EV suppliers are reluctant to go too hard in committing to new capacity because global car markets are slowing in China, US, Europe and Australia. High fixed cost businesses hate slowdowns. Writing down the existing capacity would be punitive to say the least. New capacity takes a minimum of 2 years to come on line from conception.

8) The grid! In the UK, National Grid stated that to hit the UK targets for EVs by 2030, an entirely new 8GW nuclear plant would be required to meet the demands of EV charging. Australia can barely meet its energy needs with the current policies and doubling down on the same failed renewables strategy that has already proved to fall well short of current demand ex any EVs added to the grid.

9) in 1999 automotive experts hailed that EVs would make up 10% of all vehicle sales by 2010. In 2019 EVs make up around 2.5%. So 9 extra years and 75% below the target. The capacity isn’t there much less consumers aren’t fully convinced as range anxiety is a big problem.

10) charging infrastructure is woefully inadequate. Await another taxpayer dollar waste-fest. Think NBN Mark II on rolling EV chargers out nationwide. The question then becomes one of fast charger units which cost 5x more than slower systems. If the base-load power capacity is already at breaking point across many states (Vic & SA the worst) throwing more EVs onto a grid will compound the problem and drive prices up and potentially force rationing although people look to Norway.

Norway is a poor example to benchmark against. It is 5% of our land mass, 1/5th our population and new car sales around 12% of Australia. According to BITRE, Australia has 877,561km of road network which is 9x larger than Norway.

Norway has around 8,000 chargers countrywide. Installation of fast chargers runs around A$60,000 per unit on top of the $100,000 preparation of each station for the high load 480V transformer setup to cope with the increased loads.

Norway state enterprise, Enova, said it would install fast chargers every 50km of 7,500km worth of main road/highway.

Australia has 234,820km of highways/main roads. Fast chargers at every 50km like the Norwegians would require a minimum of 4,700 charging stations across Australia. Norway commits to a minimum of 2 fast chargers and 2 standard chargers per station.

The problem is our plan for 570,000 cars per annum is 10x the number of EVs sold in Norway, requiring 10x the infrastructure.

While it is safe to assume that Norway’s stock of electric cars grows, our cumulative sales on achieving plan would require far greater numbers. So let’s do the maths (note this doesn’t take into account the infrastructure issues of rural areas):

14,700 stations x $100,000 per station to = $1,470,000,000

4,700 stations x 20 fast chargers @ A$60,000 = $5,640,000,000 (rural)

4,700 stations x 20 slow chargers @ A$9,000 = $846,000,000 (rural)

10,000 stations x 5 fast chargers @ A$60,000 = $3,000,000,000 (urban)

570,000 home charging stations @ $5,500 per set = $3,135,000,000 (this is just for 2035)

Grand Total: A$14,091,000,000

Uh Oh! Tesla’s next big problem

Glencore.png

Glencore reported on p33 of its half-yearly results that it is suspending its cobalt mining in the DR Congo. It noted that, “Mutanda’s economic viability has deteriorated since the update provided at the 2018 Results presentation in February 2019

Note that Mutanda provided 25kt of cobalt, a vital ingredient in making batteries for electric vehicles (EV). In Darton Commodities ‘2018-2019 Cobalt Market Review,’ it forecast total global cobalt supply of 140kt in 2020 vs. total global demand of 132kt. Knocking out Mutanda will push the market into 19kt deficit.

For a company like Tesla that is trying to ramp volumes at lower/discounted prices, higher raw input prices will only make life harder in making sustainable profits.

How lucky we are that Bill Shorten never got his 50% EV sales by 2030 plan into effect.

Tesla is good at digging holes

Tesla shares have rebounded from the $180s so CEO Elon Musk has come out of the woodwork suggesting mining might be on the agenda to lock in its future battery supply.

Tesla might be adept at digging financial holes for itself but we shouldn’t think that will turn it into an efficient miner.

Just typical Musk banter.

Tesla: Catching a falling knife

Tesla is breaking down. So many discipled pundits are looking at the company stock falling into “good value” territory. Good value is always relative. Sadly buying Tesla now is catching a falling knife.

It reminds CM of a time when Fuji Film dominated flat screen TV TAC films. It held 40% market share. Yet the market was shrinking and new competitor products were able to combine two films in one, dispensing with the need for TAC altogether. Yet analysts would crow at 40%. CM said 40% of soon to be nothing will be nothing.

Tesla’s valuation at $180 is ridiculously high compared to other auto manufacturers. Tesla still misses the two most important ingredients to profitable car companies – production efficiency and distribution. It has neither the first and has chopped back on the last. Digital dealerships are just not feasible especially given the nightmare quality or Tesla cars.

Big money is dumping. T Rowe Price has exited. fidelity following suit. Musk’s musings now carry little weight. Promises of stupendous Q2 volumes and making cars with ridiculously short ranges for Canadians to get the benefit of subsidies smacks of desperation.

This company, if it could, is running on the smell of an oily rag. The inability to rally back up above $200 with any conviction is showing the rattled confidence of existing holders. It’s like finding out you’ve been given the employee of the month award from your boss and you’re the only staff member. It carries no significance.

CM holds to the $28 fair value price from the 2017 report. That is CM’s optimistic scenario. So much for funding secured at $420.

Apple to buy Tesla? Is Tim Cook on autopilot?

If Apple truly stumped up for Tesla that would make two companies that are complete novices at auto manufacturing. It would be the Apple Lisa of the auto world.

Worse for Apple it would signal that the world’s largest company is completely out of creative ideas and its existing product line up was truly approaching stall speed. It already is but and the lack of transparency only adds to doubts.

Rumours circulated that Apple considered a $240/share purchase back in 2013. 6 years ago Tesla was full of hope. Now the stock is full of hype. It has been a litany of disasters from fatal crashes, production hell all the way to complete wishful thinking on Level 5 autonomous driving which Israeli company Mobileye, a leader in the field, believes is decades off.

Let’s assume a $240 per share deal was done. Apple would pay around $40bn and assume another $12bn or so in debt.

The most dangerous strategy for highly successful companies is to throw spaghetti at a wall and hope some sticks. Tesla is by no means an overnight repair job. It needs the skills of Toyota to turn it around. Don’t forget Apple has no manufacturing expertise as its products are all built by 3rd parties. Toyota rescued Porsche several decades back and Lockheed Martin called in the production efficiency king to help build the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter better.

It reminds CM of the time Hoya bought Pentax back in 2007. Such was the earnings dilution against the incumbent high margin business, hunting for growth sent Hoya shares down 50% soon after the deal. Hoya was completely dominant in glass photomasks. Yet the $1bn merger of a 2’d tier camera/optics maker was thought of by the founder’s grandson as a total failure and divested many divisions.

Losses continue to mount at Tesla, senior management departures are a revolving door and demand is slowing. The recent cap raise sees investors well under water. The Maxwell Tech deal looks a dud for the management to accept an all share rather than an all share deal (if the tech is so leading edge).

If Apple truly wanted a car deal, it could buy an established maker like Fiat Chrysler with decades of production expertise and global reach for half the price. Not to mention a wide choice of vehicle styles to broaden the appeal to customers.

Although the history of car mergers, even between industry players, has led to some pretty disastrous outcomes. Daimler overpaid for Chrysler so badly that its shares cratered 80%. BMW bought Rover from Honda. Fail. Even Land Rover had to be sold by the Bavarians. Ford ended up selling most of its Premier Automotive Group stable – Aston, Lincoln, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. Just Lincoln remains.

Tech companies meddling in the automobile sector reveals a graveyard of sad stories. Korean analysts jumped for joy when Bosch sold out its stake in the Li-ion batteries JV SB Li-motive. How could a Korean tech company proclaim to have a better read on the global auto industry than Bosch, a supplier to the major auto makers for over 100 years? Panasonic is already kicking itself hrs over the Tesla deal and management is highly unimpressed with Musk after his disparaging remarks made about production.

Have investors ever wondered why Tesla has no mainstream suppliers? Many are obscure parts companies from Taiwan. More established auto suppliers have been burnt by experiments before and they’ll only sign up for makers who have much better prospects and track records.

If anyone thinks Apple buying Tesla makes sense they need their heads read. The last 6 years have detracted value. Pre-pubescent fund managers who have never seen a cycle might see the value of millennial nirvana but the damage to Apple would be considerable. Just because Apple has been so successful doesn’t mean it won’t make mistakes. Tesla would be a disaster. It is in the product creativity blackhole of following the path of Hoya. It would be better to flutter at a casino.

Ding dong the switch is dead

Morgan Stanley has finally lowered its bearish scenario on Tesla from $97 to $10. CM wrote in October 2017 that the shares based on production of 500,000 vehicles was worth no more than $28 (refer to report page 5). That was based on rosy scenarios. Sadly CM thinks Tesla will be bought for a song by the Chinese. Maybe $4.20 a share instead of $420 “funding secured” levels.

The stock breached $200 yesterday for the first time since late 2016.

Morgan Stanley analyst, Adam Jonas, has still kept its base case scenario at $230 per share. His bull case is $391.

Where is the conviction? To drop a bear case target by 90% must surely mean the base case is far lower than presently assumed.

Jonas must assume the bear case is actually the base case. Sell side brokers love to hide behind scenario analysis to cop out having to get off the fence. His compliance department probably prevents him from realizing $10 is his true heart.

Tesla was always playing in a market that it had no prior experience. It is not to say the products didn’t have promise. The problem was the execution. Too much senior management turnover, missed targets, poor quality and too many Tweets from Musk.

The amount of bad press arising from a lack of service centers has driven customers to moan on social media at its amateur approach. The fragile dreams of being an early adopter are being shattered. Cash burn remains high and deliveries remain low. Some pundits think Tesla orders are under real pressure in 2Q 2019.

The recent all share deal with Maxwell Technologies has seen those holders -20% since the transaction a few weeks ago. CM argued how a company with such revolutionary technology could sell itself for all shares in a debt-ridden loss making like Tesla? If the technology was of real value PE funds would have snapped it up or at the very least made a bid in cash. That none was made speaks volumes about what was bought.

All of the arguments hold true in the above link, “Tesla – 30 reasons why Tesla will be a bug on a windshield

Tesla below $200 after a successful cap raise is not a good sign. It’s the faithful slowly tipping out. Await another imaginary Musk-inspired growth engine to be announced shortly to try prop up the stock price. Yet the momentum will continue to sink. The market is losing confidence in Musk. The 1Q results were diabolically bad.

Major holder T Rowe Price has stampeded out the door. The stock is too risky. Musk is a brilliant salesman but he has bitten off more than he can chew.

CM always thought that Toyota selling its Tesla stake was a major sign. Acknowledging that under the hood the company possessed no technology that Toyota didn’t already own.

Watch the free fall. The Tesla stock will be below $100 by the year end.

(CM does not hold Tesla stock)

Was Tesla/Maxwell deal smart?

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Tesla (TSLA) has bought Maxwell (MXWL) for an all-stock transaction at US$288m notional value. The question is why any company would accept an all share transaction from a chronic loss-making company to buy its supposedly “amazing” futuristic dry capacitor technology? Are shareholders of MXWL as hooked into the EV cult as those at Tesla? Clearly not all of them. A group of MXWL investors launched a class action to block the deal. Sadly they failed.

If the management of Maxwell truly believed this deal was a winner and the technology was game-changing, why not demand cash? Why didn’t Tesla invite Panasonic’s battery boffins to assess whether the technology had merit? One must question how good is Maxwell’s IP to only find one buyer and for an all share deal? Where were the private equity (PE) vultures circling? How little confidence in one’s product or how much faith in Musk’s cult-like status to fall for such terms?

Maxwell at the 9 month FY2018 stage reported US$91.6mn (-8%YoY) in revenue and a net loss of $30.2mn. Cash halved from $50.122m in 9M 2017 to $23.561mn 9M 2018. The company did sell its high voltage product line to Renaissance Investment Foundation for $55mn with a 2-year $15mn earn out. That involved an upfront payment of $48m making pro-forma cash as at Sep 30, 2018, total $69mn. The company has an accumulated deficit of $277mn.

While the two companies had been in conversation for several years, Musk seemed to get serious in December 2018.

Forget the technological merits of Maxwell. It is easy to work out the quality of the deal based on the structure and the lack of appetite from the mega battery makers or PE firms to validate it. There is no way that MXWL didn’t show its wares to the majors. Given the deal was announced in February 2019, the EV battery and PE world would have at the very least done some back of the envelope calculations to value the business.

All that Musk has done has absorbed another loss-making business into the same cult and give himself another “dream” to add to the smoke and mirrors story.

Maxwell’s management must have channeled Don Adams, “good thinking, 99” but will undoubtedly end up saying, “sorry about that, Chief!”