Elon Musk's take-private drama created 'distraction' at crucial time for Tesla, analyst says

  • "What was at best a premature announcement has generated three weeks of distraction from one of Tesla's most important quarters to date," Canaccord analyst Jed Dorsheimer says.
  • Canaccord trims its expectation for Model 3 production in the upcoming quarter to a range of 48,000 to 52,000 – below Tesla's own forecast.
  • At its current burn rate, the company has only enough cash to sustain itself for "another six to nine months," Dorsheimer says.

Canaccord Genuity says Tesla CEO Elon Musk's take-private saga was a distraction that added risk during a critical time for the company's profitability prospects.

The research firm lowered its price target on Tesla stock to $316 per share from $336 per share.

"What was at best a premature announcement has generated three weeks of distraction from one of Tesla's most important quarters to date," Canaccord analyst Jed Dorsheimer said in a note Tuesday. "We feel less confident in the company's ability to meet it's 50,000 to 55,000 production guidance indicated at the end of [the second quarter]."

The lowered expectations come after several Wall Street analysts said Musk's on-again-off-again plans hurt the company's credibility. Musk said in a blog post late Friday that Tesla will remain publicly traded, citing resistance from existing shareholders to his plan to take the electric car maker private.

Tesla stock has fallen more than 6 percent from Aug. 7, which was just before Musk tweeted that he had "funding secured" to take the company private. In the first day of trading since he changed his mind, Tesla shares fell 1.1 percent.

Tesla stock closed Tuesday trading down 2.3 percent.

Canaccord trimmed its expectation for Model 3 production in the upcoming quarter to a range of 48,000 to 52,000 — below Tesla's own forecast.

"Although Tesla has managed to stem the outflow of cash in its most recent quarter, it is still burning cash at a rate that necessitates the Model 3's success in order to achieve profitability," Dorsheimer said.

Tesla had $2.2 billion in cash at the end of the second quarter, Canaccord noted. At its current burn rate, the company has only enough cash to sustain itself for "another six to nine months," Dorsheimer said.

"Tesla will need to secure profitability by the end of the year to maintain solvency," Dorsheimer added.

Becoming profitable before time runs out will not relieve Tesla of all its problems, either. Canaccord's "greatest concern" about Tesla is that this "series of self-inflicted problems could open the door for new entrants with greater financial backing," Dorsheimer said, eating away at its current advantage as the electric vehicle market leader.

The analyst also commented on Tesla's need for strong, experienced leadership. "The drama associated with" the take private fiasco "is a great example of why even a great company may need different leaders during its life cycle," Dorsheimer said.

"Musk's recent behavior, including the handling of the potential go-private deal, also underscores a need for strong and experienced leadership to minimize distractions during an extremely important time for the company," Dorsheimer added.