According to some bullish voices on the Street, Tesla is only just getting started.
The stock has seen a torrid run so far in 2020, up nearly 490% this year and recently popping on the news of its long-awaited inclusion in the S&P 500 index—a move that, according to some analysts, now legitimizes the company in the eyes of institutional investors.
Yet bullish Dan Ives, managing director of equity research and an analyst at Wedbush Securities, is willing to bet the stock can go even higher. In fact, Ives raised his price target for Tesla on Sunday from $500 to $560, and upped his “bull case” from $800 to $1,000, which would represent an over 100% pop from the stock’s current levels.
One reason? Electric vehicle demand “is really starting to inflect, especially in China,” Ives tells Fortune. He notes globally 3% of auto sales are EV, and “We think that now has potential to be 10% by 2025. With Tesla being the clear leader, we believe China could represent 40% of sales by 2022, up from 15% today.”
Growing demand in China is a “rising tide [that’s] going to lift all boats” for EV makers, says Wedbush’s Ives, but he argues “this demand dynamic will disproportionately benefit” Tesla over the next few years, he wrote in a note Sunday.
Specifically Ives likes what he calls Tesla’s “Teflon-like” demand for its Model 3 vehicles in Europe and China, “while software driven upgrades (FSD, etc) have gone right to the bottom line,” he writes. And its China market could see “eye popping demand into 2021 and 2022 across the board with Tesla’s flagship Giga 3 footprint a major competitive advantage,” he argues.
Stateside, Ives also thinks President-elect Joe Biden’s victory could be a “potential bullish scenario” for EV investors because he expects “a more environmental-friendly platform, which could further boost EV credits as well as incentives for buying EV,” he tells Fortune. And the same goes for Europe, where there’s a heightened focus on reducing the carbon footprint and a regulatory push toward electric vehicles, notes Ives (and where the company is building out its Berlin factory).
Yet the Elon Musk-led company certainly has many risk factors for investors, one being its continued dependence on sales of regulatory emissions credits to other companies—creating what Morningstar’s David Whiston recently called a “quality of earnings issue.” In Tesla’s third quarter, free cash flow grew from the previous year, but “got help” from emission credit sales, Morningstar’s Whiston remarked in a recent note. Meanwhile Whiston points out another problem: “Tesla’s product plans for now do not mean an electric vehicle for every consumer who wants one, because the prices are too high.”
Indeed, Ives acknowledges that with Tesla’s valuation at such heady levels, “They need to continue to execute ahead of the Street, there’s higher expectations, there’s competition coming from all angles, so any hiccups in either production or demand would be viewed as a clear negative for the stock,” he says.
Notwithstanding Tesla’s increasingly lofty valuation, Ives firmly believes EV demand will only ratchet up from here: “We’re in for a golden age of demand over the coming years, which is why I believe Tesla continues to get rerated going forward.”
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