Tesla Motors Feeling Squeeze on Wall Street from Goldman Sachs Downgrade

Goldman Sachs has downgraded Tesla Motors Inc. soon after Morgan Stanley did the same as CEO Elon Musk continues losing support on Wall Street.

The timing for losing recommendations to buy Tesla stock is not good, as Musk feels the pressure to rally investors for a new fundraising round. While Musk had been able to gain underwriters and high stock price forecasts, institutional investors and analysts are losing support for Tesla.

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have owned large blocks of Tesla stock, and their analysts have occasionally recommended buying share around the time their companies’ underwriters would be leading a new round of funding. In addition, Goldman and Morgan Stanley have loaned Musk $275 million, and $200 million respectively. Some of the loans were used to buy Tesla stock, according to regulatory filings.

“I am sensing that some Tesla cult members think he’s not as brilliant as they thought he was,” said Barclays Plc analyst Brian Johnson, who has advised selling the shares for the past year. “He will be able to raise money but maybe they have to do it at a discount.”

Tesla didn’t respond to Bloomberg’s requests for comment.

Tesla has previously benefited from a few wildly optimistic forecasts. Case in point, Tesla last year hired Morgan Stanley as a manger for a $783 million offering, priced at $242 a share. Three days later, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas raised his estimated future price for the stock to $465 from $280.

Jonas’ rationale was that in the future, Tesla’s self-driving electric cars could help create a ridesharing business that would make the company a major player in the industry.

Jonas has since downgraded the stock and cut his price target to $245. He cited Tesla’s proposed merger with SolarCity as a risk, and that Tesla playing a leading role in ridesharing could take quite a few years.

Tesla’s Autopilot fatality investigation is also likely dampening investors’ enthusiasm for the company.

In May, a Goldman analyst had upgraded Tesla’s stock right at the time the electric automaker launched a $1.4 billion secondary stock offering. Goldman and Morgan Stanley were lead managers on the deal.

On Thursday, Goldman analyst David Tamberrino cut Tesla to “neutral” from a “buy,” saying that the SolarCity deal makes Tesla a riskier bet. The bank lowered its expected stock price target to $185 from $240, helping send Tesla shares down as much as 4 percent.

As of this morning, Tesla shares have been selling for around $198 a share.

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Downgrades from these two financial institutions tighten the vice at a crucial time. Musk may be looking to raise as much as $2 billion, according to Dougherty & Co.

Tesla did show better-than-expected third quarter sales, which could translate into better earnings and cash flow. Musk has been pressuring employees to cut operating costs and sell more cars without discounting pricing for Tesla electric cars.

If Tesla can show a profit or positive cash flow, it “would be really awesome to throw a pie in the face of all the naysayers on Wall Street who keep insisting that Tesla will always be a money loser,” Musk wrote in the e-mail.

The proposed merger in June with SolarCity started some of the backlash. Tesla shares fell more than 10 percent on June 22, the first trading day after Tesla announced the proposed merger.

SolarCity profits have looked elusive to investors, and Tesla has several times had to ask for more funding. Another pressing challenge has been the upcoming Model 3 and its lofty production volume. Musk has been raising more money to bring the much-anticipated and affordable Model 3 sedan to market.

Automotive News