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Top Tesla (TSLA) analyst sees a need for the company to raise $12 billion

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Elon Musk surprised Wall Street last week when he said that Tesla and SolarCity will not need to raise capital before the end of the year and “likely” not until the second quarter 2017. It was going against what Tesla had been guiding for the past few months, but it also came after the automaker confirmed record delivery numbers for the last quarter.

However, Wall Street analysts are still expecting Tesla to need to raise substantial amounts of money in the near future and now one of the top analyst covering Tesla, Oppenheimer’s Colin Rusch, is weighing in on just how much the company would need.

Rusch is coming out with a new note today suggesting that after the merger with SolarCity, Tesla could need $12.5 billion in capex through 2018 raised with “a combination of asset-based debt, system refinancing, tax equity and corporate debt”.

By 2018, Tesla expects its Model 3 program to be generating a lot more money in order to finance its other ambitions, like the Model Y, Tesla Semi, or Tesla Pickup.

But most of the money wouldn’t actually be for Tesla’s well-known ambitious expansion plans for its Fremont factory or the Gigafactory, but for SolarCity. The company is known for needing a lot of cash to finance its leased solar projects for which customers don’t need any upfront cash and instead pay based on the energy produced by the solar array on their roof, but owned by the company.

As of late, SolarCity started offering more options for customers to own their solar installation and therefore, leased systems are expected to represent a smaller percentage of SolarCity’s (or soon Tesla’s) installations in the future. But Rusch thinks it will still be a popular option.

Here’s Rusch’s note to client (via Barrons):

With Tesla setting the shareholder vote on November 17 for the SolarCity acquisition and detailing board activity at both companies in its latest filing, we believe the likelihood of the deal closing has increased. We anticipate investors will begin to refocus on the evolution of product offerings along with capital plans, and margin performance. We also expect a significantly scaled-back SolarCity given staff cuts and voluntary departures which may include lower guidance for 2016 installations. We also believe Tesla and SolarCity will increasingly use asset-backed lines to support working capital and select capital equipment spending, but still see Tesla’s vehicle platform needing $2B+ in additional capital beyond ABLs through 2018 with SolarCity needing $5B-$8B+ depending on volume of leased systems.

We believe a combined entity will face cash needs in four key areas: stationary power capex (primarily solar), auto capex, working capital and operating lease obligations. In total, we expect the combined company needing ~$12.5B for capex through 2018 sourced from a combination of asset-based debt, system refinancing, tax equity and corporate debt…

Combined entity could prove challenging to model. While we have published a pro forma of our Tesla and SolarCity estimates in a combined model, we believe investors will be concerned with visibility into the business and believe the way the company handles reporting segments will be critical to the size and interest of the investor pool in Tesla and potential stock movement post-close.

Colin Rusch is ranked #568 out of 4,182 analysts on Tip Ranks with a 45% success rate and an average return of 7.3%. He has a history of 88.9% positive returns on Tesla’s stock after 3 years of coverage with a “buy” rating for most of the period until earlier this year when it was changed to “hold:


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