Back in February, DataTrek Research co-founder Nicholas Colas examined Tesla Inc TSLA CEO Elon Musk’s decision to invest $1.5 billion of Tesla’s cash in Bitcoin BTC/USD.
This week, Colas revisited Tesla’s current situation and said the stock may be “stuck” until one of two catalysts occur.
Pair Trade: In February, Colas said Musk’s Bitcoin investment was a sign investors should consider going long Bitcoin and short Tesla, since that was essentially what Musk was doing by buying Bitcoin rather than investing that cash in Tesla’s business.
Cola’s pair trade has worked like a charm up to this point. Since Tesla originally announced its Bitcoin investment on Feb. 8, Tesla shares are down 20.8% and Bitcoin prices are up 17.6%.
On Wednesday, Colas said Musk is now at a critical point as a disruptor in which he must choose to follow a similar path to either Ford Motor Company F founder Henry Ford or Amazon.com, Inc. AMZN founder Jeff Bezos.
Ford’s long-term path to disruption and growth was to focus almost exclusively on producing high volumes of affordable cars and reinvesting the profits back into his business, Colas said.
Bezos, however, grew Amazon to its current $1.7 trillion valuation by choosing to branch Amazon out from e-commerce and into cloud services.
Two Paths Forward: Given Tesla’s auto business is still in the early stages of its growth story, Colas said Musk must choose to either focus all Tesla’s resources on ramping up production and selling autonomous vehicle services or he must come up with a new idea that will expand the current Tesla bull thesis.
“Tesla as a stock is stuck here (or lower) until either 1) a Model 3 can drive autonomously and safely in a dense urban area such as would be applicable to ride sharing or 2) Musk comes up with his version of Amazon Web Services, a big scalable idea that leverages some core competency or business attribute,” Colas said.
Colas said investing Tesla’s cash in Bitcoin and then promoting it to other companies as a way to diversify balance sheet liquidity could potentially be a growth-driving idea for Tesla, but it’s too early to tell at this point if that’s the direction Musk is looking to go.
Benzinga’s Take: The market obviously doesn’t see Bitcoin as a game-changer for Tesla given the stock’s underperformance in recent months. Unfortunately, Tesla may be years away from the type of large-scale robotaxi service that would justify a valuation significantly higher than the stock’s current $655 billion market cap.
Photo courtesy Steve Jurvetson on Flickr.
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