Tesla posts surprise profit; shares jump 15%

Premium: Tesla Motors steering wheel Model S Roadster
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Tesla reported a surprise second-quarter operating profit, causing the premium electric carmaker's shares to jump more than 15 percent after the closing bell.

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The company credited the success of the Model S and improved automotive gross margin and indicated that its rate of production is accelerating.

Earnings excluding items rose to 20 cents per share, versus a loss of 89 cents a share in the year-earlier period. Tesla said earnings excluding some items—but including the effects of lease accounting—were 5 cents per share. That last number is the one comparable to analyst estimates.

Revenue improved 15-fold to $405 million from $27 million a year ago.

Analysts had expected the company to report a loss excluding items of 17 cents a share on $383 million in revenue, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.

"While profits were still modest in absolute terms and not our primary mission, net income increased by 70 percent from last quarter, driven by record Model S deliveries and a significant improvement in automotive gross margin," the company said in a statement, adding it was on track to hit 25 percent in the fourth quarter, excluding zero-emissions credits.

The company said European deliveries began this week to Norway, Switzerland and the Netherlands. "In Norway alone, we expect to deliver almost 800 vehicles this year based on current orders," it said.

"If demonstrated demand in North America and Europe is matched by similar demand in Asia, annualized sales for Model S could exceed 40,000 units per year by late 2014," the statement said. Tesla said it plans to open its first store in China this year.

Tesla's stock has been on a tear, rising 300 percent year to date, helped by the company's first-ever quarterly profit reported in May. Most of the profit came from selling zero-emission credits to other automakers. Investors are now focusing on Tesla's ability to meet rising production goals and ramp up output in the coming year.

The carmaker said it had increased its rate of production 25 percent to 500 cars a week and that it had surpassed its expected sales of 4,500 vehicles for the second quarter by 650.

The comparable earnings number to analysts' estimates was 5 cents a share.