The Ratings Game: Tesla is facing no immediate liquidity crunch, says this analyst

Tesla Inc. is unlikely to meet its sales goals for the year and its 2020 revenue may drop by about one fifth, but it has enough cash to survive the economic destruction wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s the view of analysts at Bernstein, led by Toni Sacconaghi, who in a note Wednesday dialed down their expectations for Tesla’s TSLA, -4.76% unit sales and revenue and praised the company’s recent $2.3 billion equity raise as giving it the liquidity cushion it needs to navigate the crisis and its yearslong aftermath.

The analysts cut their 2020 deliveries estimate by 22% to 414,000 vehicles, compared with the company’s current guidance of more than 500,000. Sales are expected to fall by 22% to $26.2 billion in the year.

“Encouragingly, we do not expect Tesla to face any liquidity concerns from this crisis, partly thanks to its $2.3B capital raise in February,” the analysts wrote.

Related:These analysts have downshifted Tesla, but say long-term prospects intact

Bernstein kept the equivalent of a hold rating and a $730 price target on Tesla shares. More broadly, the analysts expect a three-month shutdown ending around mid June, and said the COVID-19 impact will be compared to the 2008 Great Recession.

Tesla officially shut down its main auto-making factory in Fremont, Calif., last week, under pressure from local authorities as the factory is located in a county under one of the first “shelter in place” orders issued in the U.S.

The Bernstein analysts expect Tesla to have produced 100,000 vehicles and have delivered 78,000 in the first quarter.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet expect the company to deliver 89,000 vehicles in the quarter, including 75,700 Model 3 mass-market sedans. Venture capital firm Loup Ventures on Wednesday called for deliveries of 57,300 vehicles, adding that anything above that is “a directional positive.”

See also:March car sales forecast to drop by 36%

Tesla is expected to release the first-quarter delivery numbers, its proxy for sales, later this week.

The company’s pain is likely to extend through the second and third quarters as the economic weakness wrought by the coronavirus pandemic could dwarf anything seen during the Great Recession, the analysts said.

Between 2007 and 2009, rich countries saw auto sales fall more than 20%, and take nearly a decade to fully recover.

On the brighter side, Tesla’s cash balance is likely to hit its lowest point of around $6.6 billion in the second quarter, and Tesla only has about $100 million of debt due this year, and is facing a $1.4 billion convertible bonds in March 2021.

Read more:GM’s Q1 deliveries drop 7%, stock falls

“We note that even in an highly onerous ’bear case’ involving a six-month shutdown, a -45% downward revision to 2020 revenues, a -30% revision to 2021, and a full cash payout of its $1.4B convertible, Tesla would still finish 2021 with ~$3.6B in cash,” the Bernstein analysts said. Rival auto makers have more pressing concerns, he said, without elaborating on the cash positions of other companies.

Tesla shares have gained 75% in the past 12 months, versus losses of 13% for the S&P 500 SPX, -3.67% in the same period.