JPMORGAN: Tesla just undermined Elon Musk's defense against the SEC
- The Securities and Exchange Commission in February asked a federal judge to hold Tesla CEO Elon Musk in contempt of court.
- The regulator says one of Musk's tweets and his subsequent correction violated his previous agreement to receive approval for tweets containing material company information.
- Musk's lawyers are set to appear in court Thursday. Ahead of that hearing, JPMorgan is warning that Wednesday's numbers released by Tesla undermine Musk's defense.
Thursday could be Elon Musk's day of reckoning as his lawyers are due in federal court in New York to defend the billionaire against allegations from the Securities and Exchange Commission that he be found in contempt of court.
Ahead of the hearing, JPMorgan says that Tesla's deliveries miss on Wednesday has further undermined Musk's defense against the stock regulator's allegations. Here's what Ryan Brinkman, the bank's autos analyst, told clients:
Full year delivery guidance was stated in the release to have been "reaffirmed" at the prior level of 360-400K units, in our view undermining a key tenet of CEO Elon Musk's legal defense against the SEC - that his February 19 tweet that Tesla will make around 500K vehicles in 2019 was not new information needing pre-approval because he had superseded guidance in the 4Q18 shareholder letter for 360-400K full year deliveries with comments just hours later on the firm's earnings conference call guiding to 350-500K of the Model 3 alone (later, Mr. Musk stated this translates to 420-600K in total, given outlook for 70-100K for the Model S & X) - the reaffirmation of 360-400K full year deliveries last night appears to clarify official guidance has in fact all along remained at 360-400K
Shares of Tesla opened down more than 9% on Thursday after Wednesday's deliveries miss, and the difference between Musk's statements and the company's official guidance could further erode investor confidence, Brinkman is warning.
"The now clear incongruence of CEO outlook statements with official company guidance may hurt the perception of management commentary, eroding investor confidence and potentially placing additional pressure on the shares," Brinkman said.
"Even if it could be argued that official full year guidance somehow increased from 360-400K deliveries at the time of the shareholder letter to 350-500K of the Model 3 alone just hours later, to 420-600K total production on February 28 - and now back down to 360-400K deliveries - the choppiness and inconsistency of this communication would still in our view erode investor confidence."
JPMorgan has a lowered its already bearish price target for shares of Tesla to $200 from $215, about 25% below where the stock was trading Thursday morning.
More on Tesla's first quarter deliveries:
- Elon Musk and the SEC are in a fierce battle over one of Musk's tweets - here's what you need to know about their dispute
- 'By whatever means necessary': Tesla leaves some customers in the lurch as it rushes to deliver cars by the end of the quarter
- Tesla says it delivered about 63,000 vehicles in the first quarter of 2019, a 31% drop from Q4 2018
Get the latest JPM stock price here.