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Would I buy the Tesla share after its record profits?

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There is a lot to like about Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA). It became the first company to really crack the electric vehicle (EV) industry, after it reported full-year profits for the first time last year. It is driving forward clean energy, a big policy agenda. And in the process it is making our planet more liveable. 

Tesla reports 2,638% increase in profits!

Moreover, the Tesla share probably looks even more attractive to investors now after it reported record profits in the first quarter for 2021 last evening. 

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Beating analysts’ estimates, its net income as per generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) came in at $438mn. This is a huge increase of 2,638% from the same quarter last year. I also like that sequentially it has seen earnings improvement in every quarter for the last four quarters. 

Its revenues have also seen a robust rise of 74% from last year to $10.4bn. 

Downsides to the Tesla share

But, there are downsides to Tesla too. These are:

#1. Pricey despite competition: The one thing I cannot wrap my mind around is Tesla’s price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio at 1,187 times. I totally see that EVs are going to be really big in the next decade and that Tesla is leading the industry. 

But that is only right now. 

Other big automotive companies are also stepping into the sector, which could give Tesla stiff competition in the future. Yet, the likes of Volkswagen, almost 40% of whose car sales last year were EVs (including hybrids), has a miniscule P/E of 15 times. 

Even if I try and justify Tesla’s current valuation as a bet on the future of EVs, it should reflect to at least some degree its peers’ valuations as well. And right now, it does not. 

#2. The China question: Around 27% of its vehicles were sold in China last year, making it a sizeable market for Tesla. But stresses between the US and China could spoil the party. Fears of its cameras spying on the country have cropped up. 

Despite Tesla’s assurances, I am not sure if its popularity in the Chinese market will be sustained. This is especially so as home-grown brands like NIO gain market share. Any weakness in the market could tell on the Tesla share price. 

#3. Safety first: Last, but certainly not the least, are safety issues related with Tesla cars. The US auto safety agency is now investigating 27 crashes of Tesla cars according to a Guardian report. Its semi-automated driving system may or may not have played a part in these. If a link is found, it would be a negative for the Tesla share too. 

Would I buy the Tesla share?

I like Tesla for what it represents – a hopeful future where clean energy vehicles become ubiquitous. But I am not sure if I like the share at its current price, particularly since there are big risks to the stock right now. I will pass on this one. 

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Manika Premsingh has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended NIO Inc. and Tesla. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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