Tesla is one of the most amazing stocks in the history of stock trading. The company just passed the $1 trillion mark in total valuation, as its stock price cleared $1,000 per share.
Had you or I been smart enough to invest in TSLA just one year ago, we would be up 160% right now. Back then the stock traded at $420, and fittingly so, given that “420” is slang for smoking weed, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk—now the world’s richest human—once puffed on a doobie on a podcast with Joe Rogan.
In just one day, on Monday, Tesla shares gained $118 billion in value—almost double the total market capitalization of Ford Motor Co. In a single day!
This came in response to news that Hertz, the rental car giant, will buy 100,000 new Tesla models for its fleet. That order of $4 billion or so—less than 10% of Tesla’s annual revenue—was seen as the start of something much bigger: now all the rental car companies may want to buy Teslas, and millions of new prospects will get to drive the car.
Tesla went public a decade ago at roughly $5 per share, adjusted for stock splits, and the stock is up an astounding 200-fold.
The stock’s relentless rise has made newly minted millionaires of thousands of people, including the son of a wealth advisor I know, who followed his dad’s advice and never will have to work again.
By any rational measure, buying Tesla stock now is crazy, it can’t possibly keep rising—and yet it does. If I had to bet on only one stock for the next five to ten years, it would be TSLA, and largely because of Elon Musk himself: the Musk Mystique.
Two big questions arise: should a newcomer invest in Tesla now, and what should Tesla itself do in light of its astonishingly high stock price?
Tesla stock now is worth more than the total value of the next nine largest car makers—combined. This includes GM, Ford, Daimler (Chrysler), and Volkswagen. Tesla’s market cap is almost four times as large as that of the second-most-valuable automaker, Toyota, which is at almost $280 billion.
Wall Street compares companies by their earnings per share of stock. Tesla stock trades at an impossibly high multiple of 350 times its earnings per share, while Toyota trades at less than 10 times its EPS.
The Tesla surge underscores two factors defining the markets today: it is a cult stock pushed up by fan-boys’ trading tips on Reddit and Robinhood and Twitter; and the stock is a nightmare for short sellers, driven ever higher by their losses.
Short sellers bet that a stock will plunge, and they lost $40 billion in 2020 betting against Tesla, according to CS Partners. To close their bets requires them to buy Tesla shares despite soaring prices, and this further boosts the stock—and adds to the shorts’ losses.
For months I have been stalking Tesla stock, hoping it would fall below $750, but it stayed out of my reach. Now it is headed up past $1,100 and beyond, and I just can’t bring myself to buy in so late.
So, let me have the patience to wait for the next crash — always, there will be another market crash, eventually — and wait for Tesla to come tumbling down. And then buy it.
In the meantime, Tesla and the fearless Elon Musk should use their prodigiously priced stock to buy a sizable stake in General Motors Corp.—say, 33% with an option to go to 51%. Even all in, a 100% stake in GM (which trades at only 6.3 times its per-share earnings) would cost upwards of $80 billion—a mere 8% of Tesla’s $1 trillion market cap.
Musk could hold on loosely, yet he could accelerate GM’s move into electric-powered vehicles, sell Tesla technology to GM for use in its cars, use GM muscle to expand Tesla production here and abroad, and tap GM-scale supply lines for cheaper parts.
Also, buying GM would add hard, tangible real assets to Tesla’s portfolio—factories, robotic production lines, distribution centers, a highly trained workforce. GM has some $75 billion in plants, property and equipment, owned or leased, compared with Tesla’s mere $14 billion.
The Tesla portfolio now is based more on promise, adoration, and the belief that Elon Musk can overcome almost any obstacle—and he has. Now just imagine what he could do to rev up General Motors and expand the production and sale of electric cars around the world.
Dennis Kneale is a writer and media strategist in New York, after six years as anchor at CNBC and Fox Business Network and 25 years at The Wall Street Journal and Forbes. He helped write "The Trump Century: How Our President Changed the Course of History," by Lou Dobbs, published in September 2020 by HarperCollins. Read Dennis Kneale's reports — More Here.
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