Wed. May 12th, 2021

Credit: livemint.com

After just months under the same roof, bitcoin and Tesla are becoming the best of friends.

That is one takeaway from the car company’s first-quarter results out on Monday. Revenue of $10.4 billion and adjusted earnings of 93 cents a share both topped Wall Street expectations. Net income reached $438 million, a quarterly record for the company. What’s more, Tesla said it expects to increase vehicle deliveries by more than 50% this year from the 2020 total. That implies roughly 800,000 deliveries this year.

Tesla didn’t exactly earn its record profit from selling cars, however. The company said that it sold some of the $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin that it purchased in February, contributing $101 million to the bottom line. That is nearly a fourth of its total profit.

What is more, sales of regulatory credits to other auto makers to help them meet emissions mandates, which carry a 100% profit margin, reached $518 million. That accounts for nearly 100% of Tesla’s $533 million in pretax income. Those two helping hands helped avert red ink.

Shares traded slightly lower in after-hours trading on Monday, and the air has come ever so slightly out of Tesla’s stratospheric stock price. Shares are down about 16% from the peak in early January, but Tesla’s market value still tops $700 billion, or more than five times the combined value of Ford and General Motors. Ford sold more than half a million cars in the first quarter in the U.S., more than double Tesla’s world-wide total. If Tesla extended its first-quarter results for the next three quarters, the stock would trade at about 200 times this year’s adjusted earnings.

Tesla’s electric-car market share has eroded in established markets like Western Europe and the U.S. as larger car companies like Volkswagen, Ford, and General Motors have finally gotten serious about the electric market. Tesla has lately been setting sales records in China, but homegrown competitors are emerging there, too.

Regulators in China and in the U.S. have recently scrutinized the company over issues like the safety of its driver-assistance software, which Tesla calls Full Self-Driving Capability.

Tesla ended the quarter with $17.1 billion in cash on its books, so it has the cushion to survive even severe blows to its business. And as bears have learned the hard way, nothing is impossible when it comes to Tesla’s stock price.

But at today’s valuation, the risks of owning the stock extend far beyond whether Chief Executive Elon Musk, who is scheduled to host Saturday Night Live this week, can remain a deft cryptocurrency day trader.