Cayman resident Mark Hennings hit the accelerator on his Tesla Model S, rocketing it silently through the underpass on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway.
“It’s just a joy to drive.” he said as the electric car glided through the tunnel. “It makes you feel like Superman.”
Mr. Hennings is not alone in his affinity for all things Tesla, which also manufactures solar panels, rechargeable batteries and other green-energy related products. The company has seen its stock surge more than US$100 since last July under the leadership of its charismatic CEO, Elon Musk, the billionaire inventor whose mission is to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
But not everyone is on board the Tesla bandwagon. In fact, one of Cayman’s major reinsurers, Greenlight Capital Re, is betting against the company.
That bet has cost Greenlight so far. The reinsurer’s short position on Tesla contributed to a nearly US$40 million net loss in the second quarter of this year, according to its latest quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
“Tesla advanced 30 percent despite posting a wider than expected loss and burning more than $600 million in the first quarter,” Greenlight President David Einhorn said during a conference call last week.
Nevertheless, Greenlight plans to maintain its short position, placing Tesla in its “bubble basket” – a collection of companies the reinsurer thinks have more sizzle than substance, are being propelled by unsustainable market optimism, or are grossly overvalued for some other reason.
In Tesla’s case, Greenlight thinks the company is burning through too much cash on trendy but unproven technology, rather than trying to maximize its profits. In other words, Tesla is not working for the best interest of its shareholders, according to Mr. Einhorn.
“The company is expected to burn over $2 billion this year as it begins production of its Model 3. It is currently only capitalized for the next three quarters,” the hedge fund manager reasoned. “As Tesla attempts to achieve scale for the Model 3, it will depend on the capital markets’ willingness to fund it.”
Mr. Einhorn’s remark about the Model 3 refers to the lower-cost sedan – it starts at US$35,000, versus other models that stretch into the six-figures – of which Tesla aims to produce 10,000 per week by the end of the year.
Last month, Mr. Musk called that target into question when he reportedly stated that his company was about to embark on “at least six months of manufacturing hell” as it gears up production.
On a conference call last Wednesday, however, Mr. Musk expressed more confidence that Tesla would at least approach its target by the end of 2017.
“What we have ahead of us, of course, is an incredibly difficult production ramp,” he said. “Nonetheless, I think we’ve got a great team, and I’m very confident that we will be able to reach a production rate of 10,000 vehicles per week towards the end of next year. And we remain – we believe – on track to achieve a 5,000 unit week by the end of this year.”
Financial markets apparently believed in Mr. Musk’s pronouncement, as Tesla’s stock increased to US$351 by the end of that day. It was trading around US$355 as of Tuesday.
Mr. Hennings, who holds Tesla stock and owns The Electric Car Company, also believes that the company’s stock will continue to soar.
“Warren Buffet will write him a check, Bill Gates will write him a check … because people believe in his motto” Mr. Hennings said of Tesla’s ability to raise additional capital, adding, “I’m supporting the cause and it’s a wonderful cause.”