A few months ago, ARK Invest published its latest model on electric vehicle maker Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA). While some may think the coronavirus situation will really hurt the car company, ARK actually believes it is a good thing for Tesla. As a result, they say that Tesla shares should trade to nearly $7,000 by 2024 as shown below. This week, a new note out from the ETF and research firm suggests that Tesla will do something completely different, yet ARK argues that the bear case is now substantially more valuable.
(Source: ARK tweet linked above)
Let's rewind a bit to what ARK has been saying all along. They believe that Tesla will launch an autonomous vehicle ride hailing service, competing against the likes of Uber (UBER) and Lyft (LYFT). The key part here is that by not having to pay a driver, ARK believes Tesla's service could cost consumers just $0.25 per mile. That's a tremendously low price, one that would likely grab a ton of market share and bring in billions of revenue to Tesla.
Part of this entire master plan was for Tesla to have a million robo-taxis on the road this year. However, the company has been behind on its ambitions for its full self-driving package. Now, it appears that the hope is to have a car driving, with an observer, perhaps next year according to Elon Musk. As a reminder, when Tesla launched Model 3 leasing in 2019, consumers were told after the 3-year lease was up they could not buy those vehicles, as Tesla would then be bringing them back to the company to use in this ride-hailing network.
That gets me to the present, where ARK has apparently changed their line of thought in a big way. As the graphic below shows, the firm now believes that Tesla would just launch another version of Uber or Lyft, basically a taxi service. As a result, this brings up their bear case value for 2024 by 80%, based on substantial revenue and earnings increases.
(Source: Diogenes tweet, seen here)
I'm not quite sure how Tesla would make so much money in this scenario, given Uber and Lyft aren't exactly gushing in profits right now. The other part is that instead of consumers paying $0.25 per mile, they are now paying at least $3 a mile, so how much market share is possible then? Let's not forget that Tesla doesn't even have a ride-hailing network right now, so how long will it take them to actually build one out? This would require substantial investments not only in people and technology, but infrastructure like many more superchargers.
Of course, ARK's recent history regarding Tesla isn't exactly pristine. The firm claims to have a 10% position limit in their exchange-traded funds, which isn't exactly true to start with (prospectus says 30% limit on individual names), but they've bought Tesla shares well above that weighting in their funds. Recently, ARK has not been showing any Tesla purchases in its daily e-mails, making it seem like they are a big seller of shares.
Tesla is held in three of ARK's five main ETFs: the ARK Innovation ETF (ARKK), the ARK Industrial Innovation ETF (ARKQ), and the ARK Next Generation Internet ETF (ARKW). In the past 35 trading days, their daily e-mails show sales of 107,249 Tesla shares between these three funds. However, if you go to their individual ETF pages like this one and track the daily holdings as I have, the three ETFs have increased their total Tesla holdings by 19,521 shares over this time. At Tesla's average close over that time, that's a difference of over $101.7 million in shares.
In the end, Tesla's biggest supporter seems to have completely changed its narrative. Previously, the thought process was that Tesla would have an ultra dominant autonomous vehicle ride-hailing service that would make Tesla worth several times what it trades for today. This week, ARK is talking about the electric vehicle maker launching another version of Uber or Lyft, yet their Tesla bear case price is hiked by 80%. When combined with ARK's questionable position changes in Tesla shares recently, it's hard to find a lot of credibility here.