Tesla reports 4th straight quarterly profit, opening door to S&P 500 as shares rise

Tesla's shares have enjoyed a meteoric rise in recent months, gaining more than 500 per cent over the past year. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Tesla on Wednesday (July 22) posted a second-quarter profit as cost cuts and strong deliveries helped it offset coronavirus-related factory shutdowns, sending its stock up 6 per cent in after-hours trading and clearing a hurdle that could lead to the electric carmaker's inclusion in the S&P 500 index.

Tesla said it earned non-adjusted net income of US$104 million (S$144 million) from April to June, or a US$0.50 per share profit, marking the first time the company has posted a profit for four straight quarters, a necessary goal for it to be included in the stock index of the largest US companies.

The result marks a major accomplishment for chief executive Elon Musk, whose mission of leading the global auto industry into an electric future has frequently been questioned by investors who doubted the viability of Tesla's business.

Tesla's shares have enjoyed a meteoric rise in recent months, gaining more than 500 per cent over the past year. Many analysts believe the share rally has been fueled in part by expectations of Tesla's imminent inclusion in the stock index, which would unleash a flood of new demand for Tesla's shares.

Mr Musk said on a conference call on Wednesday that Tesla would build a new vehicle factory in Texas' Travis County, which includes Austin. Travis County has been competing with Oklahoma's Tulsa for the new plant, which promises to create at least 5,000 new jobs.

Mr Musk said the new factory would produce Model 3 and Model Y vehicles for the Eastern United States, as well as produce a new semi-truck called the Tesla Semi and the carmaker's futuristic Cybertruck.

Travis County has offered some US$65 million in tax rebates to entice the company and Tesla has said it wants to begin building the factory in the third quarter.

The company on Wednesday affirmed its goal to deliver at least half a million vehicles by the end of 2020 despite production interruptions, including the shutting of its California factory for nearly six weeks of the quarter on the orders of local authorities.

"While achieving this goal has become more difficult, delivering half a million vehicles in 2020 remains our target," the company said.

Tesla's second-quarter revenue fell to US$6.04 billion from US$6.35 billion a year earlier, but surpassed analyst expectations for revenue of US$5.37 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Tesla reported US$5.18 billion in second-quarter automotive revenue, but its share of income from regulatory credits - payments the company receives from other carmakers to offset emissions - increased to US$428 million from US$354 million in the first quarter.

That revenue could dry up as more manufacturers develop and sell electric cars, but many rivals are still focused on reaping the high profit margins from fuel-guzzling trucks and SUVs.

"Right now in the EV market, it's Tesla's world and everyone else is paying rent, a dynamic shown front and center this quarter," Dan Ives, a Wedbush analyst, said in a note.

The company said higher income from those credits in combination with temporary employee salary cuts during the pandemic and US$48 million in deferred revenue from its yet-to-be-released self-driving feature offset the cost of factory shutdowns.

Mr Musk on Tuesday qualified for a payout worth an unprecedented US$2.1 billion, his second jackpot since May from the electric car maker following its massive stock surge.

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