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Tesla posts strong operating profit, says battery factory plans on track

DETROIT, May 7 (Reuters) - Tesla Motors Inc, led by billionaire Elon Musk, on Wednesday posted a higher-than-expected quarterly operating profit and the electric car maker said its plans for a new battery plant are on track.

The company, maker of the Model S luxury electric sedan, said the project to begin production of lithium-ion batteries at the plant, dubbed the "gigafactory," is on course for 2017.

"We have not yet finalized the ultimate location for the gigafactory and we are going to start work on at least two locations in parallel in order to minimize risk of delays arising after groundbreaking," Musk said in a letter to shareholders posted online.

Excluding one-time items, Tesla reported a first-quarter profit of 12 cents a share, two cents better than what analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S had expected.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)