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Will Tesla Finally Do a Stock Split Now?

By Dan Caplinger - Feb 9, 2020 at 10:06AM

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As the stock price approached $1,000 in the past week, some investors think a split is well past due.

Stock market investors have rarely seen the kind of performance that Tesla (TSLA 3.10%) put up over the past week, with its stock soaring to as much as $969 per share. Even after pulling back by the weekend, the electric vehicle pioneer's stock has doubled just since early December, and many analysts believe that Tesla could have much further to run.

A question that more and more Tesla shareholders are asking is whether the company will finally do a stock split. Even though splitting the stock does nothing to increase the intrinsic value of a business, many market watchers see stock splits as a sign that company management is confident about a stock's future prospects.

CEO Elon Musk has been nothing but optimistic about Tesla's future, and the stock now trades at a price 44 times higher than the $17 per share that investors in its 2010 initial public offering paid. Having flirted with the $1,000 per share mark, Tesla stock could be ripe for a stock split -- and that could spur even more enthusiasm from current and would-be shareholders.

Model 3 sedan on a road in front of a picturesque landscape.

Image source: Tesla.

Tesla could've split its stock before now

This isn't the first time Tesla has seen its stock soar over the years. Early in its history, the share price climbed quickly from below $35 in February 2013, to almost $250 by February 2014. After oscillating upward and downward from around that level for several years, the stock regained its upward momentum in late 2016, pushing from less than $200 per share to more than $360 per share in a seven-month span.

Both of those occasions spurred talk of a potential stock split, especially because they represented times of immense excitement for Tesla and its future prospects.

The 2013-2014 rise coincided with the ramping up of the Model S sedan, which carried Tesla's vision beyond the Roadster concept car, toward a more mainstream vehicle offering. Subsequent gains have largely come from the success of the Model 3 mass-market sedan, with its lower price tag and larger production runs making the car a lot more important from a financial viewpoint than its predecessors.

TSLA Chart

TSLA data by YCharts. Note: Graph uses logarithmic scale.

Yet Tesla never chose to go forward with splitting its stock. Indeed, the issue hasn't seemed even to show up on Elon Musk's radar -- he hasn't bothered to mention stock splits in his conference calls following earnings releases.

Indeed, the only split that Musk mentions regularly is the geographical split between the U.S. and China-based production facilities Tesla has built to produce vehicles and components. The Tesla CEO acknowledged the stock's huge recent gains with a simple tweet of emoji flames -- without any further suggestion that he's paying much attention to day-to-day fluctuations in Tesla's share price.

The last gasp for a Tesla stock split

I'm not confident that Tesla will look to do a stock split here, largely because if Tesla were likely to split its stock at all, it would've done so long before now. Key stock levels like $100 and $250 would've been good times to do a split. Yet the prevailing trend in the market is for companies to split their shares less often, allowing high share prices to reflect their long-term success.

There's one possible reason, though, that Tesla might finally look at a stock split here. Back in the mid-2010s, there were several situations in which popular stocks split their stock 7-for-1 as they climbed above the $700 per share level for the first time, including Apple and Netflix. Those companies have gone on to continued prosperity, so Tesla might seek to follow a similar strategy and go forward with a stock split.

Even with that possibility, I'm dubious that a stock split will come for Tesla shareholders. Nor does it really matter -- because with more brokerage companies offering fractional share purchases, would-be investors could still get into Tesla stock even if its price keeps climbing to $1,000 and beyond.

For those who believe in Tesla's long-term vision for the electric car industry to dominate the globe, the pace of the company's continuing growth is far more important than whether it splits its stock.

Dan Caplinger owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple, Netflix, and Tesla. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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