Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk suggested the electric-vehicle maker could repurchase up to $10 billion worth of its stock Wednesday, as shares declined following a third-quarter revenue miss and his CFO brought down delivery expectations for the full year.
Some Tesla TSLA, +0.84% investors have been agitating for a stock buyback after multiple stock splits and the company losing more than a third of its market capitalization in 2022, and Musk said in an earnings conference call that Tesla’s board has discussed a buyback in the range of $5 billion to $10 billion.
“We debated the buyback idea extensively at board level. The board generally thinks that it makes sense to do a buyback, we want to work through the right process to do a buyback, but it is something possible for us to do a buyback on the order of $5 [billion] to $10 billion even in a downside scenario next year, given next year is very difficult,” he said, adding that it “is obviously pending board review and approval.”
“So it’s likely that we will do some meaningful buyback,” he concluded.
The statement did not immediately move Tesla’s stock, as it was followed closely by a forecast revision from Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn, who said, “We do expect to be just under 50% growth [for deliveries] due to an increase in the cars in transit at the end of the year.”
Tesla delivered a record number of cars in the third quarter, but still missed analysts’ expectations and made it more difficult to hit executives’ target for the year of an increase of more than 50% in vehicle deliveries. Kirkhorn said that the company will increase production of cars by 50%, “although we are tracking supply-chain risks which are beyond our control.”
Shares declined more than 6% following the car company’s earnings report. Tesla reported third-quarter earnings of $3.29 billion, or 95 cents a share, on sales of $21.45 billion, up from $13.76 billion a year ago. After adjusting for stock-based compensation, the electric-vehicle manufacturer reported earnings of $1.05 a share, up from 62 cents a share a year ago.
Analysts on average were expecting adjusted earnings of $1 a share on sales of $21.98 billion, according to FactSet. Tesla shares declined about 5% in after-hours trading immediately following the release of the results, after closing with a 0.8% increase to $222.04 in the regular trading session.
Tesla shares have fallen more than 37% so far this year, a harder descent than the 22% decline of the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.67%, after years of outsize gains. Pundits have put forth a variety of reasons for the downturn, including increasing competition in the EV market, negative press around Tesla’s full-self-driving claims and actual performance, and Musk’s attention being diverted to his attempt to acquire Twitter Inc. TWTR, +0.10%.
None of that cowed Musk, however. He predicted that Tesla would be worth as much as the two most valuable companies in the world, Apple Inc. AAPL, +0.08% and Saudi Arabian Oil Co. 2222, +0.42%, combined. Both companies have market capitalizations topping $2 trillion.
“Now I am of the opinion that we can far exceed Apple’s current market,” Musk said on the call, after referencing a previous prediction that Tesla would reach Apple’s then-record market cap. “In fact, I see a potential path for Tesla to be worth more than Apple and Saudi Aramco combined. That doesn’t mean it will happen or that it will be easy, in fact it will be very difficult, require a lot of work, very creative new products, expansion and always good luck. But for the first time I’m seeing, I see a way for Tesla to be, let’s say roughly twice the value of Saudi Aramco.”
In a preview of the report Tuesday, Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives said that “the Street is starting to worry that the bloom is coming off the rose in the Tesla story with delivery shortfalls front and center.”
“Between logistical issues in China, supply-chain problems, FSD black-eye moments, the Musk Twitter fiasco and EV competition increasing across the board, there is growing pressure on Musk & Co. to prove themselves,” Ives wrote.
Tesla’s automotive gross margin, which declined in the second quarter despite price increases that Musk called “embarrassing,” were the same sequentially at 27.9%. Operating margin increased both sequentially and year-over-year, however, to 17.2% from 14.6% both in the third quarter a year ago and the previous quarter.
Earnings preview: Do record Tesla deliveries mask a demand problem?
In their communications with investors on Wednesday, Tesla executives disclosed that they will change the process for one of their most challenging tasks of late — transporting cars — in hopes of bringing costs down.
“We are reaching such significant delivery volumes in the final weeks of each quarter that transportation capacity is becoming expensive and difficult to secure. As a result, we began transitioning to a smoother delivery pace, leading to more vehicles in transit at the end of the quarter,” the company’s shareholder deck reads. “We expect that smoothing our outbound logistics throughout the quarter will improve cost per vehicle.”