Tesla could make it through 2018 without running out of money

Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

caption
Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
source
Joe Skipper / Reuters

  • Tesla reported Q2 earnings on Wednesday, with a wider loss than expected but a beat on revenue.
  • Tesla ended the quarter with $2.2 billion in cash and expected total capex for 2018 to be less than $2.5 billion, roughly $1 billion less than in 2017.
  • “Ultimately, our capital expenditure guidance will develop in line with Model 3 production and profitability,” Tesla said in its Q2 investor letter.

Tesla reported second-quarter earnings on Wednesday after the close of market. The company lost more than expected but also brought in more revenue: more than $4 billion.

Importantly, although Tesla yet again spent a lot of money in the quarter, it retained $2.2 billion in cash on its balance sheet and slowed its cash burn – remarkable, given the problems it encountered with its Model 3 roll-out.

That’s about $1 billion less that it had at the end of 2017 – but just $500 million less than what it had at the end of the first quarter.

The company now expects to hold total capital expenditure under $2.5 billion for the full year while adding to its overall cash position.

It’s going to be tight, and Tesla’s year-end cash situation will depend on whether it can continue to grow revenues in the next two quarters while notching either lower losses or actual profits.

“Ultimately, our capital expenditure guidance will develop in line with Model 3 production and profitability,” the company said in its investor letter. “We will be able to adjust our capital expenditures depending on our operating cash generation.”

The company likes to operate with a $1-billion cash buffer, so the difference between cash on hand and the anticipated spend will have to be dealt with.

A wildcard is zero-emission-vehicle (ZEV) credits. Tesla sold $50-million worth in the first quarter, but none in the second.

Tesla shares surged almost 4% in after-hours trading on Wednesday after earnings were reported, so some analysts might want to know if CEO Elon Musk will relent on his promise and issue new equity or convertible debt before the end of the year, to take advantage of a share price that’s now over $300.

Regardless of whether he changes his mind or Tesla stays the course, the company hasn’t run out money yet – contrary to some predictions offered earlier this year.