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Stock Watch: Another Analyst Antes Up on Tesla Motors

By Alex Dumortier, CFA – Mar 17, 2014 at 7:00PM

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Baird raises its price target on Tesla Motors; the shares also get a Chinese boost

Investors rejected concerns linked to the Crimean population's rejection of Ukraine in yesterday's referendum (rightly so, in my opinion), and sent the benchmark S&P 500 up 1% on Monday, with the narrower Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 1.26%) registering a 1.1% gain. One high-profile growth name, Tesla Motors (TSLA 6.24%) outperformed the broad market on company-specific news.

Tesla Motors' stock ended Monday's session up 1.3% after gaining up to 3% intraday, as Robert W. Baird & Co. tipped its hand in analysts' "who's more bullish" parlor game, raising its price target to $275 from $245 (still, this ante pales in comparison to Morgan Stanley's imaginative "utopian world"-based $325 target, which was worth a 13% pop on Feb. 25.)

Baird's analysts cite progress toward achieving Tesla's existing production target for 2014 in support of the raised price target:

We are incrementally positive following our meetings and believe [TSLA] is on track to meet its 2014 delivery guidance of 35k Model S vehicles. [Tesla] continues to see progress in streamlining its supply chain and ramping production.

The company's performance relative to that goal will ultimately have a substantial impact on the stock, but some of the other "catalysts" Baird identifies are more woolly:

Upcoming catalysts include gigafactory news such as site selection, partner announcements, and ground breaking all within 2014. Additionally, the marketing campaign for the Model X should bring positive attention to the company in 2H:14. [Note: the "gigafactory" is Tesla Motors' term for a planned factory dedicated to the production lithium ion batteries.]

These are hardly what I would call "hard" catalysts, although I don't disagree that they would or will "bring positive attention to the company." In an environment in which growth investors are proving quite excitable, perhaps that's all that is required for further stock gains. Still, Tesla's story is hardly unknown at this stage; in fact, it's already received plenty of positive attention, some of which can only be qualified as hype.

And speaking of catalysts, I think another factor behind today's outperformance by Tesla Motors' shares was the massive 23% pop in the shares of Kandi Technologies (KNDI 0.36%). The Chinese electrical vehicle manufacturer announced fourth-quarter results that included 92% revenue growth to $50.6 million. Revenue from small electric cars grew even faster, at 140%, to account for $40 million.

While that is negligible compared to the $615 million in revenue Tesla Motors generated last quarter, that won't stop investors from dreaming of Tesla conquering the Chinese market (Tesla's model S went on sale there this month.)

Alex Dumortier, CFA, has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Tesla Motors. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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