Tesla Eyes China Green Car Incentives as Shares Reach Record

Feb 11, 2014 9:53 am ET

(Updates with today’s trading in second paragraph.)

Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Tesla Motors Inc., the youngest and smallest publicly traded U.S. automaker, wants its Model S to qualify for China’s electric car subsidies that the government said will remain more valuable than initially planned.

The shares rose 0.8 percent to $198.20 at 9:37 a.m. in New York and earlier traded at $202.20, for the highest price since the company’s June 2010 market debut.

Yesterday, Ben Kallo of Robert W. Baird & Co. and Craig Irwin at Wedbush Securities Inc. said China’s extension of incentives, which Tesla’s car doesn’t get as a U.S. import, nevertheless creates favorable conditions ahead of the start of Model S sales next month.

“We understand we don’t qualify for direct subsidies,” Diarmuid O’Connell, Tesla’s vice president of business development, said in a phone interview yesterday. “We’re hoping the government will consider the role Tesla can have in catalyzing electric vehicle adoption in China and extend those incentives to Model S as well.”

Tesla, which quadrupled in value last year, began rising again last month after the Palo Alto, California-based company said its shipments of Model S sedans in the fourth quarter of 2013 and revenue were 20 percent higher than it had expected. Musk also said in a January interview that China, where sales begin next month, may match U.S. volume as early as next year.

The carmaker named for inventor Nikola Tesla ended yesterday’s trading with market capitalization of $24.1 billion, just behind France’s Renault SA, at $25.5 billion, and ahead of South Korea’s Kia Motors Corp.’s $20.4 billion market value.

Tesla’s increase yesterday resulted from expectations the electric-car maker can post favorable sales in China and Europe, Kallo said.

Europe, China

Elon Musk, Tesla’s billionaire chief executive officer, and JB Straubel, its chief technical officer, briefed customers in Europe this month about plans for the Model S and Model X crossover, and its strategy for China is being well received, said Kallo, who rates the shares outperform.

“All the news following around Elon and JB Straubel kind of got it started, and all the positive news in China is also having a positive impact,” Kallo said in a phone interview.

China confirmed yesterday that electric-vehicle incentives will be higher in 2014 than previously announced as part of efforts to curb the nation’s worsening air pollution.

Subsidies are being cut by only 5 percent this year, instead of an initial 10 percent target, and will be further decreased by 10 percent in 2015 instead of 20 percent, China’s finance ministry said in a joint statement with the National Development and Reform Commission, technology and industry ministries.

‘Headline Positive’

“The better-than-expected change in Chinese EV subsidies is helping the stock,” said Irwin, who rates Tesla outperfrom. “This doesn’t fundamentally impact Tesla, given they are not eligible for the subsidies yet, but is a headline positive.”

Tesla’s Model S will be priced from 734,000 yuan ($121,000) in China when deliveries begin, the company has said. That’s about 50 percent higher than the U.S. price to cover shipping costs, taxes and import duties that run as much as 25 percent, Musk said.

The company is scheduled to release fourth-quarter financial results on Feb. 19. Analysts on average estimate the company will post a profit, excluding some costs, of 18 cents a share, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The net loss may narrow to $2.4 million, or 2 cents a share, while sales may more than double to $668.6 million.

--Editors: Niamh Ring, John Lear