It's fun to bet against Elon Musk and Tesla – that's the best reason we can find for so many people doing it even though the man, his company and his cars are still here and still very popular. The latest name inscribed in the column labeled "Skeptical of Tesla" is John Shinal at Market Watch who, in year-end commentary on Tesla's financials, says that the "carmaker's financials are reminiscent of a dot-com's." He does not mean that in the good way.
To be fair, Shinal isn't exactly betting against Tesla, he's saying that if you check the bottom lines, the only thing keeping Tesla alive is the hundreds of millions in Federal Department of Energy loans it has received. Based on its filings, he says the company has less than six months of cash on hand, hasn't produced as many cars as it promised and had to lower its revenue forecast for 2012, has had a "year of net losses and negative operating cash flow," and was underwater by at least $37 million at the end of the third quarter.
But Shinal's not done there, summarizing Tesla as an operation with "a poor habit of failing to deliver to customers the cars it has promised them, while simultaneously raising the prices of those yet-undelivered cars," and "a lousy level of customer service." He says there are more damning things to be found in Tesla's SEC registration settlement from September, but we'll have to wait for his next column to find out what those are. The takeaway, in Shinal's opinion, is that even though Tesla will keep getting money from the government, that investors have no business dealing in Tesla stock.
Early in his piece, Shinal says Tesla's financials are worse than those of Zynga and Groupon, two hot dot-coms that have fallen on their faces since their IPOs. Shinal knows far more about finances than we do, but we wonder if it makes the most sense to compare a brand new car company developing brand new technologies – with the colossal amounts of up-front cash each one of those things requires, and a company with Tesla's record so far – to a social media game developer and an online coupon distributor. Head over to Market Watch to read the full piece.