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Tesla is in a bubble and it’s ‘going down,’ top fund manager says


Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks at a delivery ceremony for Tesla China-made Model 3 in Shanghai, east China, Jan. 7, 2020.

Ding Ting | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

Shares of the electric car maker Tesla are going to see sharp falls as interest rates increase after the coronavirus crisis, Lansdowne Partners fund manager Per Lekander told CNBC.

Lekander told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” Tuesday that he thinks Tesla is in a bubble and that he’s short on Elon Musk’s firm, meaning he will profit if the value of Tesla’s stock falls.

Tesla’s market value soared to over $800 billion in the 12 months leading up to January, before dropping to less than $600 billion in February. It now stands at around $679 billion.

“My take is that this year is going to be the comeback for the incumbents,” said Lekander, calling out German carmaker Volkswagen, which is valued at 119 billion euros ($141 billion), as one company he’s particularly bullish on.

“There are a few golden nuggets, which I think are going to be long-term winners. But in the short term, my guess if I’m right on the macro call that interest rates go up and the market wakes up to (the fact that) the incumbents are not as badly positioned as they think, then yes, I think Tesla is going down.”

Some other market watchers will likely disagree with that prediction. Wedbush analyst Dan Ives, for example, believes Tesla’s shares will recover after a volatile start to the year.

“Tesla’s success ramping its EV (electric vehicle) initiatives and demand in China for the month of March that will catalyze shares higher after a shaky January and a robust month of February,” said Ives in a note on Monday.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

Lekander drew comparisons to the dot-com boom of 1999.

“If you think about the visionaries who talked about the internet in 1999, if you now listen to them, they are actually underestimating what happened,” he said. “The development was even more radical than what happened.”

He pointed out that Cisco — arguably a poster child for that period — has a much higher market value today than it had in 2000. “It didn’t stop it from going down 80% first,” he said.

The equivalent in Europe was probably Nokia, Lekander added, saying that it also went down 80%.

“I think that is what we are going to see here in this tech spec hype space,” he said.

Tesla stock snapshot

Tesla’s share price increased by over 650% in 2020 with several key events helping to lift the company’s stock.

In May, Tesla started production at its California factory following a pandemic-related shutdown and legal battle with the state. In July, Tesla posted its fourth straight quarter of profit and beat delivery estimates. Shares also got a boost at the end of the summer when Tesla announced its first ever stock split.

In December, Tesla shares soared to a record high after the electric car maker announced it was debuting on the S&P 500. But in January, the company missed on earnings for its fourth quarter and the stock immediately fell around 5%.

Tesla’s ‘Technoking’

Last month, Tesla revealed that it had bought $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin. Tech research firm Wedbush believes that the company has already made a $1.2 billion profit on its investment.

Tesla officially gave CEO Musk the title of “Technoking of Tesla” in a new regulatory filing on Monday.

Musk will retain his position as chief executive officer, Tesla said. Zach Kirkhorn, the company’s chief financial officer, has also been given a new title: “Master of Coin.”

“We believe this hints at Musk viewing Tesla more as a technology disruptor in the future especially with robotaxis, FSD (full self-driving), and massive battery technology advancements on the horizon at Tesla,” said Ives.

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