Speculators on Wall Street (where else?) have been yammering about the possibility of Ford Motor Company creating a second company for its moving-at-light-speed EV business. To that end, CEO Jim Farley had one thing to say on Wednesday:
“We have no plans to spin off our electric business or our ICE business,” he told people assembled on a finance call.
Goldman Sachs is creating a joint venture that will help it capitalize on automotive technology firms while they’re consistently being overvalued on the New York Stock Exchange. Automotive startups have become a hot item, so long as they’re trading on the assumed merits of new technologies, and there’s no shortage of new companies being propped up by established players. The last few years have been a merry-go-round of establishment automakers and financial intuitions investing in startups on the off chance they might have something useful.
Meanwhile, burgeoning electric vehicle companies are using special purpose acquisition firms (aka blank-check companies) to maximize their advantage. Even though some have argued this is being done unfairly, there’s not much accountability in general. The iron could not be more primed for striking if you happen to be one of America’s largest banks.
It’s been a wild ride for Nikola, from being highly valued – perhaps overvalued – by Wall Street, to partnering with GM, to being accused of fraud, to founder Trevor Milton voluntarily stepping down today.
Milton, who was hailed as the next Elon Musk not long ago, is stepping aside less than two weeks after Hindenburg Research, a short-selling firm, published a long article/blog post accusing Nikola of fraud. Milton and Nikola pushed back, saying the report contained inaccuracies, but Milton is resigning as executive chairman and giving up his spot on the board anyway.
The board has accepted his resignation.
Following a scathing report from Hindenburg Research that called Nikola a fraudulent company largely dependent upon the blind excitement surrounding electric vehicles, the accused has finally issued a response. On Monday, Nikola released a bulleted letter suggesting the report was the act of an opportunistic short seller that was attempting to take advantage of the period immediately proceeding the announced partnership with General Motors. While Hindenburg didn’t exactly hide that aspect of itself in its own report, it frames the business as only profiting off companies that weren’t above board to begin with. It also received support from Citron Research, which said it likewise thought Nikola needed to be scoped out by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and promised to help pay for half of any legal fees incurred as a result of Hindenburg’s reporting.
Meanwhile, Nikola was crafting its rebuttal after founder Trevor Milton explained he had to wait on a comprehensive response because he was already in contact with the SEC. As his constant Twitter updates started to become counterproductive, this was likely a wise decision. The response dropped on Monday, clearing a handful of items up while making a bunch of other aspects seem even more suspect.
While we’ve suspected that electric vehicle startups and green tech, in general, is probably a little overvalued, we’ve never accused anyone of outright fraud. Burgeoning automakers have a tendency to over promise and under deliver. Throughout history, this has occasionally gotten them into serious trouble. But it’s also how the game is played, especially when you’re new to the scene and need to distinguish yourself from giant entities who would just as soon crush you in lieu of risking the eventual competition. Nikola is a perfect example of this and built a hype train so swift that legacy brands could only hope to buy it out or invest and share in the fruits of its labor before it sped away.
But what if it wasn’t ever growing any industrial fruit?
That’s the claim being made by Hindenburg Research — which specializes in short selling, pointing to firms on the cusp of financial disaster (hence the name), and attempting to bust businesses the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) might be interested in. The financial research firm has suggested that Nikola founder Trevor Milton had misrepresented what the company was actually capable of in terms of product, with the intent to mislead investors into thinking the company should be incredibly valuable. It reads like a hit piece and was accused by Milton of being just that. However, there are issues brought up in the report that are still worth examining.
One of the strangest anomalies in the automotive industry is the way electric vehicle startups (like technology companies in general) seem to draw limitless support from investors while established automakers don’t receive nearly the same kind of love — even when transitioning toward EVs.
There’s a logic behind this, however. Green tech is overwhelmingly trendy at the moment, even if some of it lacks a comprehensive game plan to actually save the environment, and financial backers are always looking to get in on the next big thing before anybody else — resulting in scattershot investing that sometimes coalesces into a major victory for new firms possessing sufficient moxie.
But it hasn’t helped the auto industry’s largest players, who are seen as dinosaurs using the blood of their forebears to amass their fortunes. They lack the presumed purity of brands like Tesla or Nikola (clever name), even though their financial goals seem largely the same.
A potential solution to this problem is to distance tech-focused entities from the core business.
Nikola, the electric vehicle startup with no functional or sellable product to back up its insane valuation, just got a reality check from JPMorgan. The Wall Street firm has warned investors of a pullback of the company’s sky-high share price — an action that pretty much guarantees that exact outcome.
After catapulting into the stratosphere two weeks ago, Nikola’s stock stands to sink by nearly a third, the bank warns. That result would no doubt be gratifying for those annoyed by overvalued companies who promise investors the sun, moon, and stars.
Money might never sleep, but Wall Street never seems to learn.
We all remember those stories from a few years ago about Tesla being overvalued by investors. Hell, a quick Google shows me there are opinion pieces on that topic from just a few months ago.
Now comes Nikola.
Nikola, the Phoenix-based EV startup that hopped on the Nasdaq last week, finds itself awash in capital despite not having much to show for itself it terms of sellable product.
No matter, as it doesn’t take a sound business model or originality to thrive on Wall Street. Nikola hasn’t even seen fit to come up with a unique moniker for itself and instead uses the scraps left by Tesla Motors’ not using the full name of the inventor that serves as its inspiration. However, Nikola is designing battery/hydrogen-driven semi trailers and pickup trucks — which are the freshest fad in the industry at present. Investors took notice and pushed Nikola’s market cap past $26 billion on Monday. It just kept climbing, too, with only the eventual promise of product and profitability to spur them on.
In a recent earnings report that, unlike Nissan’s, actually pleased investors, Tesla claimed its new Model Y crossover would see its first U.S. deliveries in March of this year. Great news for antsy reservation holders, but some worry the appearance of America’s Favourite Bodystyle will have a harmful impact on the automaker’s current best-seller, the Model 3.
Despite it only being a little over a month into 2020, Tesla’s stock has already doubled since New Year’s. Share prices surged to over $900 before Tuesday’s trading, leaving many scratching their heads as to how one of the smallest global manufacturers manages to clean up so well on Wall Street.
Seeking answers, Bloomberg looked to industry analysts and executives from rival car manufacturers to better understand Tesla’s mojo — and determine whether all the stock heat is warranted. The gist appears to be that Elon Musk and company are simply running away with battery technology, something that’s difficult to refute. However, some claims that Tesla has surpassed what constitutes an automaker feel overblown and not entirely consistent with reality.
Given what Tesla revealed last night, it seemed appropriate to reference a movie from the early ’80s — an era from which the automaker’s “futuristic” Cybertruck appears to have emerged. Looking like a stainless steel pup tent with a delicatessen counter serving as a dash, the Cybertruck’s Thursday night reveal generated a critical mass of hot takes, resulting in an megaton-level explosion of ridicule heard to the farthest reaches of space.
Perhaps even on Mars.
While the term “half baked” appeared to be one of the more popular descriptors for the vehicle (and may be a contributing factor to the vehicle’s design), market analysts are a sober-minded crowd. Friday morning, they let loose.
It’s no surprise to anyone reading this site that the suits on Wall Street are unimpressed with Ford’s attempts to haul itself out of the proverbial financial basement. With a recent downgrade by Moody’s to near-junk status, the Blue Oval needed to reassure the money mavens that the company is on track for success.
That’s not what happened at a recent presentation made by Joe Hinrichs, Ford executive VP and head of global operations, at Barclays Global Automotive Conference in New York earlier this week. Despite a 25-minute talk supported by a 21-slide PowerPoint deck, investors were left wanting more information.
In the words of one economist who listened to the speech: “Rarely have I heard so many tired old buzz words that told us so little.”
It’s now Tesla that’s been disrupted.
For all of the Silicon Valley speak about “disrupting” the automotive industry, and despite some very interesting successes in doing just that, Tesla is still struggling to actually get cars to market.
That’s understandable to an extent – the company is small, with limited experience. But CEO Elon Musk has talked a big game, and thus far not delivered on his promises.
Wall Street, predictably, has noticed.