The day after Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk blasted his Tesla Roadster into space, his electric car company's mounting losses brought him back to Earth again. Tesla Inc. posted a record quarterly net loss of $675 million in the fourth quarter, up from a net loss of $121 million in the same period a year ago. The Palo Alto, California-based automaker is struggling to meet production targets for its first mass-market car, the Model 3 sedan. It's also spending heavily on future vehicles, including a semi that's supposed to go into production next year. Tesla lost $1.96 billion for the full year, a record for the company and nearly three times its loss of $675 million in 2016.
Tesla has never made a full-year profit since it went public in 2010. Tesla's adjusted fourth-quarter loss of $3.04 per share was ahead of Wall Street's estimated loss of $3.15 per share, according to analysts polled by FactSet. The adjusted loss eliminates one-time expenses, including stock-based compensation. Revenue for the quarter was $3.3 billion, which was in line with analysts' forecasts. Tesla's total revenue for 2017 was $11.8 billion, which was also in line with analysts' forecasts. Musk is a masterful marketer, and the red ink may not stem investors' excitement.
The company's shares jumped 3 percent to close at $345 after SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon Heavy rocket on Tuesday with Musk's cherry red Roadster as its cargo. The convertible, with a dummy in a space suit at its wheel, is now heading toward an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Tesla's shares are also in the stratosphere, up 8 percent from the start of this year. While Tesla's true believers love these stunts, some analysts are questioning whether Musk should be spending more time fixing Tesla's woes. Clement Thibault, a senior analyst with the web site Investing.com, grumbled about Musk's recent fundraising efforts for The Boring Co., his new tunnel-drilling company.
"He appears to be more eager to sell hats and flamethrowers rather than meeting previously stated production targets for Tesla vehicles," Thibault wrote in a note to investors.