Tesla's China Numbers Might Be Worse Than First Blush
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Tesla’s China Numbers Might Be Worse Than First Blush

After a day of confusion saw the company’s stock fall.

By Al Root
Wed, May 12, 2021 12:20pmGrey Clock 3 min

Confusion has reigned in recent Tesla trading. There has been confusion about Tesla driving features and a fatal Texas crash; the true impact of zero-emission credit sales; and now over Tesla’s April sales figures in China. One thing is certain: Investors hate confusion.

Tesla stock fell 1.9% Tuesday, but started out the day significantly lower, making the drop actually a small win for Tesla investors. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.9% and 1.4%, respectively.

Even though the stock rallied through the day, Tesla’s China sales numbers might be worse than investors initially assumed. Chinese auto industry data show Tesla sold roughly 26,000 EVs in April, down from about 35,000 in March. It’s a decline amid growth for Tesla’s Chinese EV competitors.

The confusion is over exports. Tesla also exported about 14,000 cars from China in April, according to the same industry association. So the question investors started asking analysts is: Did Tesla produce 40,000 cars in China in April, meaning the company sold 26,000 in China and exported an additional 14,000? Or did Tesla make 26,000 cars overall in China, selling 12,000 of those in China and exporting the rest?

Tesla isn’t helping untangle the numbers. The company didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“We’ve been exchanging emails with confused clients all morning,” wrote Piper Sandler Alex Potter in a Tuesday report. His original interpretation of the numbers was that Tesla sold about 26,000 vehicles in China and exported an additional 14,000, but acknowledged the possibility that Tesla only sold about 12,000 in the country and exported the rest of the 26,000.

That would mean Tesla sales declined by nearly two-thirds month to month. But even if the answer is only 12,000 Chinese sales in April, Potter isn’t worried.

“Don’t stare too closely at these monthly numbers,” wrote the analyst. “We prefer to examine Tesla’s market share on a trailing [three-]month basis.”

He also points out that the Tesla plant in Shanghai was closed for two weeks in the first quarter, which might have sacrificed 10,000 or so vehicles. What’s more, Tesla tends to ship most of its units in the final month of the quarter.

GLJ analyst Gordon Johnson isn’t as sanguine and believes the 14,000 deliveries are part of the 26,000 figure. For him, that means Tesla has a market share problem in the world’s largest market for EVs.

Potter and Johnson’s take on the April data aligns with their ratings. Potter rates shares Buy and has $1,200 price target for the stock, the highest on Wall Street. His target price values the company at more than $1 trillion. Johnson rates shares Sell and has the lowest target price on the Street at $67 a share. His target values the company at about $80 billion, or roughly what General Motors (GM) stock is worth.

The entire April report is, frankly, confusing, adding to existing uncertainty surrounding Tesla stock.

Tesla’s driver-assistance function was initially implicated in a deadly Texas crash in April, but it looks as if the system wasn’t turned on, according to preliminary findings by the National Transportation Safety Board. In other words, that would mean the human driver crashed the car, although investors will have to wait to see the NTSB’s final report.

Tesla also reported better-than-expected first-quarter numbers in late April. The numbers, however, were boosted by Bitcoin trading profits and bigger-than-expected zero-emission credit sales—which Tesla earns for producing more than its fair share of no-emission cars and then sells to other auto makers that don’t meet zero-emission quotas.

All the confusion has weighed on shares. Tesla stock is down about 9% over the past month. The Nasdaq Composite is off 4% over the same span.

Regardless of the final interpretation, Tesla’s April sales in China dropped sequentially, while other EV makers’ deliveries rose. That isn’t what Tesla bulls want to see, and it’s another thing to worry about in coming months.

Reprinted by permission of Barron’s. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: May 11, 2021.



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The Great Wealth Transfer: How rich millennials will invest the billions coming their way

The younger generation will bring a different mindset to how and where their newfound wealth is invested

By Bronwyn Allen
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There is an enormous global wealth transfer in its beginning stages, whereby one of the largest generations in history – the baby boomers – will pass on their wealth to their millennial children. Knight Frank’s global research report, The Wealth Report 2024, estimates the wealth transfer set to take place over the next two decades in the United States alone will amount to US$90 trillion.

But it’s not just the size of the wealth transfer that is significant. It will also deliver billions of dollars in private capital into the hands of investors with a very different mindset.

Seismic change

Wealth managers say the young and rich have a higher social and environmental consciousness than older generations. After growing up in a world where economic inequality is rife and climate change has caused massive environmental damage, they are seeing their inherited wealth as a means of doing good.

Ben Whattam, co-founder of the Modern Affluence Exchange, describes it as a “seismic change”.

“Since World War II, Western economies have been driven by an overt focus on economic prosperity,” he says. “This has come at the expense of environmental prosperity and has arguably imposed social costs. The next generation is poised to inherit huge sums, and all the research we have commissioned confirms that they value societal and environmental wellbeing alongside economic gain and are unlikely to continue the relentless pursuit of growth at all costs.”

Investing with purpose

Mr Whattam said 66% of millennials wanted to invest with a purpose compared to 49% of Gen Xers. “Climate change is the number one concern for Gen Z and whether they’re rich or just affluent, they see it as their generational responsibility to fix what has been broken by their elders.”

Mike Pickett, director of Cazenove Capital, said millennial investors were less inclined to let a wealth manager make all the decisions.

“Overall, … there is a sense of the next generation wanting to be involved and engaged in the process of how their wealth is managed – for a firm to invest their money with them instead of for them,” he said.

Mr Pickett said another significant difference between millennials and older clients was their view on residential property investment. While property has generated immense wealth for baby boomers, particularly in Australia, younger investors did not necessarily see it as the best path.

“In particular, the low interest rate environment and impressive growth in house prices of the past 15 years is unlikely to be repeated in the next 15,” he said. “I also think there is some evidence that Gen Z may be happier to rent property or lease assets such as cars, and to adopt subscription-led lifestyles.”

Impact investing is a rising trend around the world, with more young entrepreneurs and activist investors proactively campaigning for change in the older companies they are invested in. Millennials are taking note of Gen X examples of entrepreneurs trying to force change. In 2022,  Australian billionaire tech mogul and major AGL shareholder, Mike Cannon-Brookes tried to buy the company so he could shut down its coal operations and turn it into a renewable energy giant. He described his takeover bid as “the world’s biggest decarbonisation project”.

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