BBC Business Matters Podcast: What Tesla needs to do to justify valuation
Our CEO and founder Tony Nash joins Jimmy Robertson at the BBC for Business Matters podcast where they discussed about the importance of Tesla in the stock market and in the auto industry. What is the additional factor that really helps Tesla justify its valuation? Also discussed are the protests in Ukraine dominated by women, community theaters in COVID era, and how the future of work from home looks like.
This podcast was published on September 2, 2020 and the original source can be found at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172x18xp28m1xj
BBC Business Matters Description:
The chief and other police leaders step down following accusations of cover-up in the Daniel Prude case, a black man who was hooded and restrained during an arrest. Michael Wilson is a reporter at the New York Times who’s been covering the story.
Also in the programme electric car company Tesla’s shares tumble almost 20 percent after it failed to be included in the S&P 500 index. Richard Waters, the Financial Times West Coast Editor in San Francisco explains. And English composer and theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber warns the future of theatre is on a knife edge.
JR: Tony, is this getting any coverage at all in the U.S.?
TN: Very little, actually. There’s a great story of three leading women in Ukraine with the Tikhanovskaya election, I think what’s happening with Kolesnikova is pretty amazing and the fact that she’s staying becauseTikhanovskaya actually left the country, of course. So there is such passion here about Belarus that is pretty incredible. And one has to wonder, can they be determined enough to see this through? I think they can. And would it have other effects on other countries in the region? I think it’s possible actually. If they can have a peaceful protest, which is amazing to bring this change about, I think it’s possible that this could happen to other countries in the region.
JR: The situation does seem to be very much on a knife edge. I mean, everyone is very worried about what how Russia is going to react and also, of course, how the West is going to react as well. But it was just a small comment which was made about the fact that women have been very prominent in this particular line of protest, basically as opposition leaders, but also actually out on the streets. Now, just trying to think whether I’ve known of any other protests where you’ve had women dominating the protests. I think you perhaps probably in Argentina where you seen you remember the mothers who protested about the disappeared children. But I can’t think of many other places. I’m not quite sure why women dominate this particular protest.
TN: Was it in Georgia? I think like 20 years ago, what was her name? But I know that former Soviet republics have had women protest leaders and female prime ministers. And so I do think that that it’s not I’ll try to dig up her name, but it’s not unprecedented. But I think the determination is because it is a woman who was elected and then the protest leaders are also women. I think it’s very amazing.
JR: Well, Tesla’s importance, but to two things. One, its importance to the stock market, to the Nasdaq and how it is a kind of bellwether within the actual tech stocks and the other is its importance within the auto industry. Let’s just talk about, of course, two things are connected, but let’s just talk about its importance in on the stock market. I mean, it really is one of the reasons why the stock market has fallen. But Nasdaq I mean, I don’t know if people have been following this, but Nasdaq has fallen in the last three trading days, has fallen 10 percent. I mean, we’re talking about a proper correction here. A lot of that was Tesla, wasn’t it?
TN: It was and just today, Tesla fell 21 percent in value. So if we looked at Tesla last week, the valuation was around 1,100 times earnings. Today, the value is 855 times earnings. So it’s still incredibly highly valued. You know, valuations range between, say, 15 and 25 times earnings, maybe more 30, 35. But Tesla is trading at, 100, more than 100, almost 200 times earnings of a car company. And so it is incredibly highly valued. Whether it’s overvalued or not, that depends on what the market says. But just to put it in perspective, Tesla makes about 400,000 vehicles a year. Volkswagen makes almost 11 million. Yet Tesla is valued much more highly than Volkswagen is.
JR: But we are talking about potential. And I mean always when you’re buying a stock, you’re not looking really at what it has done. You’re looking at what it’s going to do. And that is why people have been buying it.
TN: Is it overvalued?
JR: I know you. The answer is I don’t know. But I mean, it’s over. But it’s…
TN: It’s really interesting that the founder of Great Wall Motors in China, I think that’s who it was, once said that a car is nothing more than four wheels and two sofas. And, you know, he really helped build the Chinese auto industry on the back of that philosophy. So, Tesla is four wheels in two sofas with some really interesting interfaces and monitors. And, of course, it has an electric engine, these sorts of things. But the real question is, are they selling units or are they selling technologies?
Because if you’re selling, let’s say, a piece of software, Apple sells the iPhone, but they also sell a lot of software around that. OK, is Tesla pushing the number of units to be able to sell the amount of software it needs to sell to justify the valuation it has? So if you take that comparison to, say, Tesla is equivalent to, say, an Apple, they just don’t have the number of units in the market to push the software they would need in my mind to justify the valuation. That’s nothing against Tesla. I just think they need more units in the market to be able to push that software technology story.
JR: You’re talking about the software technology that surrounds the car you mean, that sort of self-driving stuff or whatever. It’s going to be electronics, not all that.
TN: That’s right. Because you would pay subscription fees and other things on that software and the upgrades and the safety and other things. Right. Because without that, it’s just four wheels and two sofas. Right. It’s a pretty cool four wheels and two sofas. But for the most part, it’s four wheels that gets you around from place to place. So what is that additional factor that really helps Tesla justify its valuation?
They’ve got a very outspoken CEO. They do a lot of cool stuff. It’s electric, but a lot of companies have electric car technology now. So they’re not unique.
JR: So what you’re saying also, I mean, the question which I asked Richard right at the end was about whether it’s going to be tech companies are going to be buying cars from the future or whether it’s going to be the likes of Volkswagen and whether Volkswagen and GM and the rest of them can actually turn themselves around and become tech companies. I suppose that really is the question.
TN: Well, I guess the question is, is that tech modular enough for them to buy and integrate into their manufacturing scale? And so, you know, can they buy the electronic displays? Can they buy and build the electric engine technology? Can they have their own, say, autopilot or self-driving software?
I think it’s possible for all of them to do it, especially when you look at a Volkswagen or something like that. So, Tesla always has to be on the edge. And I don’t have a position in Tesla. I don’t have anything for or against Tesla. I just think that as a technology company, they need to make sure that they’re so far ahead of every other auto company. And if they aren’t, then people are going to start questioning their valuation.
JR: Are they that far ahead? We don’t know yet. You know,
TN: I think they probably are far ahead in some areas. But for the most part, most drivers really are not that discerning around the technology. Most people don’t have the newest iPhone. They have an iPhone. Most people don’t have the newest, you know, fill in the blank. They have something that works. And so, you know, the real question is, can Tesla… Well, they’ve already cashed in, as your story said, they pulled five billion dollars out of the market last week. Right. So they’re cashing in on this and good for them. That’s a good management decision for them to look at a share price that’s really highly valued and pull some money out. That’s a great management decision. And so the real question is, can they continue to keep their valuation up?
I guess a precursor question is to that is what is keeping their valuation up? And then they have to look at do they have that much of a technology lead that people care about to be able to justify that, let’s say, high valuation? And I think those are really, really important questions. No doubt they have cool technology, but cool technology is not necessarily the most useful technology, especially if it’s not resulting in unit sales. Again, Tesla sells 400,000 units. Volkswagen sells 11 million units, yet Tesla is valued much higher.
JB: In Texas. I gather you have you managed to buy into it? You have been to the theater?
TN: Yes, I’ve been to the theater twice, two times over the past month.
JB: Fantastic. What?…
TN: My son is an actor and he acts in community theater and it was great to be in the theater. But there were social distancing and all sorts of considerations wearing masks, these sorts of things. People sat in family groups. There had to be distance between family groups, that sort of thing. So the financial issues that were discussed at length, you know, it’s the same thing with community theater here. I think they could only sell, say, 30 percent of the tickets that they would normally sell. So, you know, it’s a great performance on a really creative budget. And so but it is amazing to get out, be with people, see people, be at the theater. It’s fantastic.
JR: Can they can they survive as a community? I mean, are they able to make enough money to keep going?
TN: They can. In some cases, people bought tickets and chose not to attend so that they could help the theater out while still having distance, so that’s one way to do it. The theater had some additional things you could buy, that sort of thing, but I think they could do it. I think they could do it, but the productions would probably have to be a bit smaller. And so, you know, anyway, I think they could continue to do it, but obviously wouldn’t be preferable.
JR: Sort of One-Man shows and things like that. Perhaps that one person shows.
TN: Know this was actually a pretty big cast, but it’s not paid. This is community. So, you know, it’s not paid. So they can you know, they have different budget constraints than than, say, a professional theater.
JR: Are they getting any government, central, regional, state health or anything like that?
TN: Theater group is not. This was all done through personal kind of buying of things and donations and other things.
JR: I find this really interesting about if we’re all going to change the way we work, we’re going to be working at home. We’re not going to be working so much in big cities. How is the money going to be spent now? It’s not going to be spent on sandwiches and on trains and all cars, even perhaps. How do you think we’re going to spend that money?
TN: Amazon. I mean, I don’t know, it’s like food delivery in Amazon. I just I mean, you know, if if people are at home and they’re eating from home, it’s great to have that, you know, homemade sandwich or whatever, you know, on a regular basis. But they’re going to order out or go out locally or something like that. So it’s great to save more money, but I think that’s relatively short term. I think over time, you know, people spend what they make. That’s just what happens. You spend what comes in. I mean, you set some aside from savings, but once you hit that threshold, you spend what you make so people will find ways to spend it. I think they’ll be home delivery. I think there’ll be other things where people just eat better stuff for lunch at home.
JR: I think the other thing is and I think this is probably most worrying side of it, is the people who continue to work will actually do very well and actually be saving money and spending money, making a lot of money. And the people who don’t are going to be very badly off and we’re going to have quite a wealth divide as a result.
TN: No, it’s terrible. And I think the, you know, the sandwich shops and other things. So my company, we haven’t closed our office through COVID. We live in a county where it wasn’t mandated. And so we’ve tried to patronize the shops around us. But it’s been hard. Many of them have been closed. And but we’ve been trying to go to them, not really to splash out, but just to support people. But in some cases, you know, they were just doing the best they could to serve us.
JR: OK, Tony Nash in Houston, Texas, thank you very much indeed for joining me here on Business Matters has been a pleasure to have you here. And we’ll be back again tomorrow with business matters to join us in.