Tesla Motors Evaluating a Growth Company

By Maureen McNichols, Anne Casscells, Jaclyn Foroughi
2013 | Case No. A209 | Length 21 pgs.
Amid worldwide market and economic uncertainty, Tesla debuted its stock in June 2010 on the NASDAQ Stock Market (Ticker Symbol: TSLA). The stock price jumped over 40 percent in its first day of trading to close at $23.89 in an upsized deal that valued the company at $2 billion and raised over $226 million. It was the first initial public offering by an American automaker since Ford’s debut in 1956. While the primary market showed strong enthusiasm for the stock, the secondary market was much less convinced. Concerns were raised about the long-term viability of the company stemming from a limited operating history, a long history of losses, liquidity issues, unreliable consumer demand, expensive battery technology and competition from traditional automakers. As a result, the stock was frequently the subject of high short interest, a predictor of lower investment performance. The question plaguing investors was: were the short-sellers correct in their bearish sentiment or was a short squeeze imminent? This case describes Tesla’s road from founding to outsourced manufacturing of the Roadster, the first fully electric sports car, to in-house capacity production of the Model S, its highly regarded fully electric luxury sedan. Specifically, it focuses on the long-term viability of the growth company along with questions related to quality of earnings.

Learning Objective

Provide students with an opportunity to analyze the financial and accounting issues raised in the case in order to develop a feasible trading strategy.
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