Tesla Inc. late Wednesday surprised Wall Street by posting a first-quarter profit amid the broad economic destruction wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.
Tesla TSLA, +4.08% Chief Executive Elon Musk kept the surprises going on a post-results call with analysts, veering off-script to condemn the ongoing restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the virus.
Earlier Wednesday, Tesla said it earned $16 million, or 9 cents a share, in the quarter, versus a GAAP loss of $4.10 a share in the year-ago period.
Adjusted for one-time items, the company said it earned $227 million, or $1.24 a share, contrasting with an adjusted loss of $2.90 a year ago.
Sales rose to $5.99 billion from $4.54 billion a year ago. The stock rose more than 9% following the report.
Analysts polled by FactSet had expected the electric-car maker to report an adjusted loss of 28 cents a share on sales of $6.1 billion.
First-quarter 2020 “was the first time in our history that we achieved a positive GAAP net income in the seasonally weak first quarter. Despite global operational challenges, we were able to achieve our best first quarter for both production and deliveries,” Tesla said in its letter to investors.
The results were “quite impressive, given the difficulties incurred towards the end of the quarter with COVID-19 issues,” Argus Research analyst Bill Selesky said.
First-quarter profit may have been small but that Tesla “managed to be profitable for the third quarter in a row is an impressive feat, especially given the challenges of the coronavirus crisis and the company’s expansion of its product lineup,” Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell said.
“(Chief Executive) Elon Musk is leaning heavily on the Model Y to carve the company’s path forward so it’s an encouraging sign that the vehicle’s launch is not only going much better than expected, but it’s been a process free of the major drama surrounding its Model 3 predecessor,” she said.
In the letter to investors, Tesla said its gross margins remained strong, with the Model Y, the compact SUV that is next on Tesla’s lineup, already profitable. The 24-page letter did not mention the pandemic at all — it referred to the coronavirus only tangentially, using words such as “challenges” and “uncertainty.”
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