By Aditya Soni and Eva Mathews
(Reuters) -Tesla Inc shares kicked off 2023 with a thud, plunging more than 12% on Tuesday on growing worries about weakening demand and logistical problems that have hampered deliveries for the world’s most valuable automaker.
Once worth more than $1 trillion, Tesla lost more than 65% in market value in a tumultuous 2022 that saw it increasingly challenged by other automakers and face production issues stemming from COVID lockdowns in China.
Tuesday’s slide knocked off nearly $50 billion in market value, roughly equal to the valuation of rival Ford Motor Co, which last year sold three times as many cars as Tesla.
The sell-off came after Tesla missed market expectations for fourth-quarter deliveries despite shipping a record number of vehicles.
“Tesla, as it has grown is now entering a phase of still solid but slower growth,” Morningstar analyst Seth Goldstein said. Being a major auto producer, it “is likely to feel more of an impact from an economic slowdown”, he added.
Several Wall Street analysts said they expected more pressure on the stock in the coming months from increasing competition and weaker global demand.
Global automakers have in the past few months battled a demand downturn in China, the world’s top auto market where the spread of COVID-19 has hit economic growth and consumer spending. Tesla is offering hefty discounts there and a subsidy for insurance costs.
At least four brokerages cut their price targets and earnings estimates on Tuesday, pointing to the deliveries miss and Tesla’s decision to offer more incentives to boost demand in China and the United States, the two largest global auto markets.
The company’s stock was the worst performer on the benchmark S&P 500 index on Tuesday as it fell as low as $104.64 a share – the lowest since August 2020. More than 220 million shares exchanged hands during regular trading hours.
The electric-vehicle maker’s performance in 2022 was among the worst on the S&P 500 index.
“You have so many things working against the stock. One obviously is Musk’s involvement in Twitter,” said Dennis Dick, market structure analyst and trader at Triple D Trading.
Tesla’s market value has declined by about $370 billion since Chief Executive Elon Musk closed the deal to buy social media firm Twitter.
Some of that drop has come from his share sale to fund the $44 billion deal, while the stock also declined due to worries among investors that Musk has been distracted by the social media company.
At a value of about $341 billion, Tesla is still the world’s most valuable automaker, even though its production is a fraction of rivals such as Toyota Motor Corp.
Tesla delivered 405,278 vehicles in the fourth quarter, short of analysts’ estimates of 431,117. For all of 2022, its deliveries rose by 40%, missing Musk’s 50% annual target.
The result “came at the cost of higher incentives, suggesting lower pricing and margin,” brokerage J.P.Morgan said in a note, lowering its price target by $25 to $125.
The median price target of 41 analysts on the stock was $250, more than double the current price, according to Refinitiv data. The lowest price is $85, from Roth Capital Partners.
The shortfall highlighted the logistics hurdles facing the company which is known for its end-of-quarter delivery rush. The gap between production and deliveries has widened to 34,000 vehicles as more cars got stuck in transit.
The automaker plans to run a reduced production schedule in January at its Shanghai plant, extending the lowered output it began in December into 2023, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, California-based electric vehicle maker Rivian Automotive Inc narrowly missed its 25,000-unit production target for 2022.
(Reporting by Aditya Soni, Eva Mathews and Akash Sriram in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Amruta Khandekar; Editing by Tomasz Janowski, Shounak Dasgupta and Arun Koyyur)