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Tesla Motors, Inc. Earnings: What to Expect

By Daniel Sparks – Feb 1, 2016 at 7:00PM

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While investors have big expectations for Q4, it will probably be the automaker's forward-looking commentary that draws the most attention.

As always, the market has big expectations for electric-car maker Tesla Motors (TSLA -4.59%) next week. With the company's quarterly deliveries already reported, investors will likely look to the automaker's forward-looking comments as a barometer of Tesla's health. In particular, investors will likely attempt to gauge management's confidence in the company's ability to continue to expand rapidly while also hoping for signs of improving economics.

Model S. Image source: Tesla Motors.

When Tesla reports fourth-quarter results on Feb. 10, some of the key items investors may be expecting include high hopes from management for the Model X production ramp-up, guidance to achieve positive free cash flow, and guidance for even faster vehicle sales growth.

But first, here's a look at what to expect from Tesla's revenue and EPS for the quarter:

Metric

Q4 2015 Expectations

Q4 2014 Actuals

Revenue

$1.75 to $1.85 billion

$1.1 billion

Non-GAAP EPS

$0 to $0.20

($0.13)

Data source: Tesla Motors.

In line with the average analyst expectations for the quarter, I'm expecting Tesla's first-quarter revenue and to be about $1.8 billion and its non-GAAP EPS to be slightly higher than breakeven. This compares to revenue and non-GAAP EPS of $1.1 billion and a loss of $0.13 per share in the year-ago quarter.

The higher revenue and improving profitability is representative of 75% year-over-year growth in vehicle deliveries for the quarter and a likely improvement in operating leverage on higher sales volume.

And here's a look at the other three key metrics investors may have high expectations for when Tesla reports fourth-quarter results.

Model X production ramp-up: While Tesla has indicated it expects an average of around 1,600 to 1,800 combined Model S and Model X weekly deliveries during 2016, management hasn't specified how many of these deliveries it expects to come from which model. Considering Tesla has 25,000-plus deposit backed orders for the Model X, investors may be expecting the company to be able to deliver this many units of the SUV during the year.

Model X. Image source: Tesla Motors.

It's not clear whether or not Tesla will break down its guidance by vehicle model or not, but the fact that Tesla broke down its fourth-quarter sales by model suggests management may opt to provide guidance this way.

Free cash flow: The automaker's high rate of cash burn is definitely one of the biggest risks to owning the stock. Of course, if this cash burn helps Tesla grow its business and turn it into one that generates positive free cash flow on a regular basis, it may also serve as a key catalyst for the stock over the long haul. But until Tesla can prove it can generate positive free cash flow, it's still up in the air how soon Tesla really can achieve this important milestone.

Tesla's latest commentary on becoming free cash flow positive indicates management intends to achieve this in 2016 as its capital expenditures take a break from further increases. Will Tesla reaffirm this aspiration when it reports fourth-quarter results?

Accelerating growth: Tesla's reference to an average weekly production rate of 1,600 to 1,800 vehicles for S and X combined in 2016 suggests the company expects vehicle sales growth to accelerate yet again in 2016. Will Tesla guide for year-over-year growth in vehicle unit sales greater than the impressive 60% growth Tesla served up in 2015?

Stay tuned at The Motley Fool for more analysis of Tesla's fourth-quarter results ahead of the release next Wednesday, as well as for a Foolish look at the company's performance after the quarterly report is public.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article contained the wrong dates in the table. The Fool regrets the error.

Daniel Sparks owns shares of Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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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