Short Seller Takes Aim at Another EV Maker
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Short Seller Takes Aim at Another EV Maker

Not all EVs are built the same in market.

By Al Root
Wed, Mar 17, 2021 11:11amGrey Clock 2 min

Many new electric-vehicle start-ups have no sales and big aspirations. Electric truck maker Lordstown Motors is one of them. The company doesn’t sell EVs yet, but expects to start selling its all-electric truck called Endurance later in 2021. After the launch, Lordstown projects explosive growth off its 2021 base in 2022 and beyond.

One short seller, however, isn’t buying it.

On Friday morning, Hindenburg Research published a negative research report about Lordstown Motors (ticker: RIDE). The report makes several claims, notably that not all of the preorders the company has claimed are real.

The report is hitting the stock. Shares are down 20%, at $14.18, in Friday morning trading. The S&P 500, by comparison, is down 0.5%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.5%.

On Jan. 11, Lordstown reported more than 100,000 preorders for its Endurance pickup truck launched this past summer. Hindenburg claims in its report that it has talked to some Lordstown preorder customers, and points out some it found that don’t have the cash to buy ordered trucks and that preorders don’t carry a commitment to purchase or a penalty to cancel.

Lordstown wasn’t immediately available to comment on the Hindenburg report.

Preorders in the EV industry are fairly common. Tesla (TSLA), when it launched its Cybertruck, regularly reported preorders. Tesla racked up hundreds of thousands in vehicle preorders before it stopped reporting the number. A Cybertruck could be reserved for US$100, which is fully refundable.

Hindenburg is the firm that published a negative research report about electric- and hydrogen-powered trucking company Nikola (NKLA) back in September 2020. Hindenburg alleged Nikola management misled investors. Nikola denied the claims. The report, however, led to the departure of company founder Trevor Milton.

An internal investigation conducted by an outside firm at the behest of Nikola followed and, as a result, the company disclosed in its annual report nine statements made by Miltion which may have been partially untrue.

At the time of the report, Hindenburg was short Nikola stock, betting that its price would decline. Now, Hindenburg is short Lordstown stock and stands to gain as it falls.

Lordstown became a publicly traded company in 2020 after merging with a special purpose acquisition company. The company, founded by Steve Burns, purchased an Ohio plant from General Motors (GM) to kick-start its growth plants.

The company projects more than $100 million in sales for 2021, growing to $1.7 billion in sales in 2022 and then to $5.8 billion by 2024. Vehicle deliveries over that span are projected to go from 2,200 in 2021 to more than 100,000 in 2024.

Lordstown will report fourth-quarter results on March 17 after the market closes. Investors and analysts will have a chance to hear from management then.

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Mortgage holders should brace themselves for more pain as the Reserve Bank of Australia board prepares to meet tomorrow for the first time this year.

Most economists and the major banks are predicting a rise of 25 basis points will be announced, although the Commonwealth Bank suggests that the RBA may take the unusual step of a 40 basis point rise to bring the interest rate up to a more conventional 3.5 percent. This would allow the RBA to step back from further rate rises for the next few months as it assesses the impact of tightening monetary policy on the economy.

The decision by the RBA board to make consecutive rate rises since April last year is an attempt to wrestle inflation down to a more manageable 3 or 4 percent. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that the inflation rate rose to 7.8 percent over the December quarter, the highest it has been since 1990, reflected in higher prices for food, fuel and construction.

Higher interest rates have coincided with falling home values, which Ray White chief economist Nerida Conisbee says are down 6.1 percent in capital cities since peaking in March 2022. The pain has been greatest in Sydney, where prices have dropped 10.8 percent since February last year. Melbourne and Canberra recorded similar, albeit smaller falls, while capitals like Adelaide, which saw property prices fall 1.8 percent, are less affected.

Although prices may continue to decline, Ms Conisbee (below) said there are signs the pace is slowing and that inflation has peaked.

“December inflation came in at 7.8 per cent with construction, travel and electricity costs being the biggest drivers. It is likely that we are now at peak,” Ms Conisbee said. 

“Many of the drivers of high prices are starting to be resolved. Shipping costs are now down almost 90 per cent from their October 2021 peak (as measured by the Baltic Dry Index), while crude oil prices have almost halved from March 2022. China is back open and international migration has started up again. 

“Even construction costs look like they are close to plateau. Importantly, US inflation has pulled back from its peak of 9.1 per cent in June to 6.5 per cent in December, with many of the drivers of inflation in this country similar to Australia.”

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