Tesla Inc. shares rose in late trading after the electric car maker reported better-than-expected earnings per share, but it was the company’s disclosure of the sale of 75% of its bitcoin holdings that gained more attention.

In the second quarter, Tesla reported adjusted earnings per share of $2.27 on revenue of $16.93 billion. Analysts had expected an adjusted profit of $1.81 per share on revenue of $17.1 billion.

Automotive gross margin came in at 27.9%, down from 32.9% in the previous quarter because of inflation and increased competition for components and battery cells. Automotive accounted for $14.6 billion of Tesla’s total revenue in the quarter, with its energy generation and storage business coming in at $866 million.

Highlights in the quarter included Tesla’s Fremont and Shanghai factories achieving their highest-ever production months. New factories in Berlin-Brandenburg and Austin were described as continuing to ramp up in the quarter, with over more than vehicles produced in a single week at the German plant for the first time.

Although Tesla’s electric vehicle business is going well, the same can’t be said for its bitcoin holdings. Tesla first invested in bitcoin in February 2021, purchasing an initial $1.5 billion of the cryptocurrency. Fast forward to July 2022, and that bitcoin is worth considerably less than it once was.

Tesla did not provide much detail as to its thinking around bitcoin, but most of its stake is no longer. “As of the end of Q2, we have converted approximately 75% of our bitcoin purchases into fiat currency,” Tesla said in its earnings report. “Conversions in Q2 added $936 million of cash to our balance sheet.” The company’s bitcoin holdings reached $2.48 billion in the first quarter of 2021 and were sitting at $2 billion as of the end of the year.

Elon Musk spun the decision, saying in Tesla’s earnings call that “the reason we sold a bunch of our bitcoin holdings was that we were uncertain as to when the Covid lockdowns in China would alleviate so it was important for us to maximize our cash position.” CNBC reports that Musk noted that “this should be not taken as some verdict on bitcoin,” before adding that Tesla is open to increasing its crypto holdings in the future.

Musk has long pumped cryptocurrencies and had previously called bitcoin “quite brilliant,” but his opinion seems to have significantly shifted. When asked about bitcoin as an inflationary hedge on the earnings call, he called the cryptocurrency “a sideshow to a sideshow.”

Bitcoin, which was trading as low as $17,934 in June before seeing a small recovery this month and trading as high as $24,250, dropped briefly on the Tesla news before later recovering. Shares in Tesla were up  about 1.5% in late trading.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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