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Tesla 4Q earnings: Tesla posts record quarterly revenue, but profit misses expectations

Emily McCormick
·Reporter
·4-min read

Tesla (TSLA) reported fourth-quarter results Wednesday after market close, offering the last look at the electric car-maker’s performance at the end of a record-breaking year and early guidance for 2021.

The company posted its first-ever quarter doing $10 billion or more in revenue. However, Tesla’s earnings fell short of estimates, though the company did eke out a sixth straight quarterly profit. Shares fell more than 4% in late trading after the results.

Here were the main results in Tesla’s report, compared to consensus estimates compiled by Bloomberg:

  • Adjusted earnings per share: 80 cents vs. $1.01 expected and 43 cents year-over-year

  • Revenue: $10.7 billion vs. $10.33 billion expected and $7.4 billion year-over-year

In 2020, aided by the production ramp-up of its Shanghai Gigafactory, Tesla reported record vehicle deliveries, broke ground at its forthcoming facilities in Germany and in Texas and joined the S&P 500 after months of speculation over its inclusion. The stock was rewarded with a more than 740% surge in 2020, and shares are already higher by 23% for 2021 to date.

Tesla offered its first guidance for vehicle deliveries going forward in its shareholder letter Wednesday.

“We are planning to grow our manufacturing capacity as quickly as possible. Over a multi-year horizon, we expect to achieve 50% average annual growth in vehicle deliveries,” Tesla said. “In some years we may grow faster, which we expect to be the case in 2021.”

The company closed out 2020 by handing over 499,550 cars for the full year, coming up just trivially short of the half-million figure many analysts on Wall Street homed in on as their target. Still, Tesla’s deliveries rose 36% versus 2019’s 367,500, growing during a time when the coronavirus pandemic pushed major legacy carmakers like Ford (F), General Motors (GM) and Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) to report full-year declines in auto sales.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk gets back into his Tesla after talking to media before visiting the construction site of the future US electric car giant Tesla, on September 03, 2020 in Gruenheide near Berlin. - Tesla builds a compound at the site in Gruenheide in Brandenburg for its first European "Gigafactory" near Berlin. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP) (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Tesla CEO Elon Musk gets back into his Tesla after talking to media before visiting the construction site of the future US electric car giant Tesla, on September 03, 2020 in Gruenheide near Berlin. - Tesla builds a compound at the site in Gruenheide in Brandenburg for its first European "Gigafactory" near Berlin. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP) (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Production out of China has been central to Tesla’s recent performance. In 2020, the company ramped its Model 3 production at its Shanghai Gigafactory to more than 5,000 cars per week and began producing its newer Model Y vehicles at the facility.

The company’s business in China comprises “the heart and lungs of the Tesla bull thesis,” analyst Dan Ives of Wedbush wrote in a note ahead of results. He predicted that at least 40% of Tesla’s overall deliveries could come from China by 2022. While Tesla does not break out sales or deliveries by region, the sharp sales growth of Chinese electric-vehicle makers including Nio (NIO) Li Auto (LI) and Xpeng (XPEV) have recently underscored the swelling demand out of the world’s largest electric-vehicle market.

And in the U.S., the Biden administration and newly instilled Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress have also helped ignite hopes for more amenable policies for clean energy companies and electric car manufacturers, which could serve to further fuel demand and sales at companies like Tesla.

Tesla also added that it remains “on track to start vehicle production this year with structural batteries leveraging in-house battery technology” at its Berlin and Austin facilities. Production at these facilities will include the Model Y, it added. And Tesla also plans to begin deliveries of the Tesla Semi this year.

“While our total market share in Europe increased in 2020, Gigafactory Berlin should enable a significant increase in local deliveries, similar to what we saw after constructing Gigafactory Shanghai,” Tesla said in its shareholder letter. “Buildout of our Berlin factory continues as planned.”

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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