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Tesla CFO Leaves as Automaker Promises Profits and Cheaper Cars

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Tesla Inc’s chief financial officer will leave the company as the automaker on Wednesday promised cheaper Model 3 sedans, the launch of Chinese production this year and profits in every quarter in 2019.

The departure of Deepak Ahuja as well as missing Wall Street profit targets for the end of 2018, sent Tesla shares down nearly 6 percent after hours. Zach Kirkhorn, Tesla’s vice president of finance, will replace Ahuja, who is about 56 years old.

Chief Executive Elon Musk touted strong demand for the Model 3, as the company begins to ship the car to Europe and Asia from its Fremont, California factory. But he acknowledged it was paramount to cut costs to lower the price of the vehicle for a wider customer base.

“We have to be relentless about costs in order to make affordable cars and not go bankrupt,” said Musk on a conference call with analysts.

While the company expressed optimism that it could post a profit in the first quarter despite fewer deliveries of its flagship S and X vehicles, Tesla warned of challenges such as logistics and global deliveries of its new Model 3.

Tesla said plans to lower the price of the Model 3 were contingent on quickly building its factory in China. It hopes to produce 500,000 vehicles a year there by the last quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2020, a goal it originally expected to meet in 2018.

To start, the Shanghai factory will build 3,000 Model 3s per week, while production at Tesla’s Fremont plant will rise to 7,000 Model 3s per week by year’s end, the company estimated.

“Bottom line is we need the Shanghai factory to achieve that 10,000 rate and have the cars be affordable,” Musk told analysts. “The demand for Model 3 is insanely high. The inhibitor is affordability.”

Musk announced a 7 percent workforce reduction earlier this month, saying it was crucial to cut costs to roll out a lower-priced, yet still profitable, Model 3.

The cheapest today is priced at $44,000. Musk gave a “rough guess” that Tesla would begin building its originally promised $35,000 version around the middle of this year.

Roth Capital Partners analyst Craig Irwin called Tesla’s results “somewhat weak, but largely as expected.”

“We think people have been too bullish about Tesla showing earnings power, and sustained positive cash from operations,” he said.

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Investors have wondered whether Tesla, which has never posted an annual profit, will seek more capital to fund a planned Model Y SUV, the building of factories in China and Europe, and the expansion of Tesla’s existing Nevada battery plant, the Gigafactory.Slideshow (3 Images)

Tesla said it ended the quarter with $4.3 billion in cash and said it could pay a $920 million convertible bond maturing in March.

“Tesla has a fantastic brand, and by all accounts a fantastic product, but we’re worried it’s also fantastically expensive,” said Nicholas Hyett, Equity Analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. “2019 could prove a make-or-break year.”

The winding down of a U.S. tax subsidy this year will make all Tesla cars more expensive and could hurt sales.

Tesla said it expected lower S and X deliveries in the first quarter, given a “pull-forward in demand” in 2018 for those vehicles when the full subsidy was still available. Tesla recognizes revenue once a vehicle is delivered.

Apple posts revenue drop but optimistic on China

In the fourth quarter, customer deposits decreased by $113 million from the prior quarter to $793 million. Tesla said it was working through its Model 3 backlog without clarifying further.

Asked about Model 3 reservations, Ahuja said that number was “not relevant.” Tesla last disclosed in May that net Model 3 reservations – accounting for new orders and cancellations – exceeded 450,000.

The company made a net profit of $139.5 million in the three months ended Dec. 31, compared with a $311.5 million in the third quarter, when it benefited from regulatory credits.

Excluding items, Tesla earned $1.93 per share, missing expectations of $2.20 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Tesla’s total revenue rose 5.9 percent to $7.23 billion, beating the analyst average estimate of $7.08 billion. -Reuters

-Sonam Rai in Bengaluru and Alexandria Sage

Economy

5 Tips For SMEs To Counter The Covid-19 Crisis

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It was recently reported by ratings agency S&P Global that the coronavirus outbreak has plunged the world into a recession. On the home front, a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases in the country resulted in the President of South Africa imposing a 21-day country-wide lockdown, starting from Thursday, 26 March 2020. Combine this with the fact that the country also recently announced to be in its third recession since 1994 it’s safe to say that many businesses are beginning to feel the effects of the pandemic.

The impact of the coronavirus on small businesses is likely to be substantial, especially for local businesses who are already feeling the pinch, as financial and market uncertainty can easily translate into an emotional crisis that can overwhelm our systems. However, help is on the way as the Department of Small Business Development announced that a Debt Relief Fund has been set up to assist small, medium and micro enterprises impacted by COVID-19.

While this relief is welcomed, it is still vital for leaders to step up. The world has been through crises before, but during these significantly difficult times, the economic impact may be as severe or possibly worse. As such, those in leadership positions must use past crises as examples and apply what was learnt to keep the country on course and minimise the impact of the pandemic.

Karl Westvig, CEO at Retail Capital, has pinpointed the visible areas that are affected and outlined a few pointers to help small business owners weather the storm.

Liquidity

The first victim of panic is liquidity – banks, asset managers and funders stop lending. When they cannot calculate the potential risk, they will not lend.  Therefore, it is critical to shore up cash by drawing down on available facilities and suspending any unnecessary investments. Reduce expenses and manage cash flow daily.

Get Your Best Team on It

When a business is growing, we tend to shift our best people into roles linked to growth and new initiatives. In a crisis, these people need to move into the highest priority roles. These roles would include collecting from customers, raising facilities or engaging key clients.

Morale and Communication

People need leadership. This would include authentic and regular communication about the situation, what the business requires and how this will be achieved. You can’t control the circumstances, but you can control the response and actions. This will create more certainty.

Hands-on

Events evolve quickly and every day is critical. Leaders must be hands-on. They have to be in touch with customers, suppliers, funders and staff. They have to collect data on everything – the mood, the financial metrics, even customer stories. Some of the best information is anecdotal, not just big data.

Policies

It’s tough to lead when you don’t understand all the underlying levers. These can change in a crisis. What worked in a stable environment can go out of the window in an instant. The best approach is to start again, listen to customers and then adapt your policies within your framework.

“This is not a manual on how to handle the current crisis, but hopefully, the points mentioned above can add to what you are already doing. In simple terms, it is easy to be overwhelmed, so tackle a few things very quickly and with commitment. This will create certainty and lead to action. The alternative is paralysis,” concludes Westvig.

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Moody’s Downgrades South Africa To Junk

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Credit ratings agency Moody’s has downgraded South Africa to junk status on day 2 of the country’s nationwide lockdown.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s economic reform plans have been slowed by the coronavirus pandemic. The downgrade adds salt to injury for South Africa as it currently struggles with a recession it slipped into in early March.

“The unprecedented deterioration in the global economic outlook caused by the rapid spread of the coronavirus outbreak will further exacerbate South Africa’s challenges” said Moody’s.

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Current Affairs

What You Need To Know About AfDB’s $3 billion “Fight COVID-19” Social Bond

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Landmark transaction, largest Social bond transaction to date in capital markets

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 27 March 2020 – The African Development Bank (AAA) has raised an exceptional $3 billion in a three-year bond to help alleviate the economic and social impact the Covid-19 pandemic will have on livelihoods and Africa’s economies.  

The Fight Covid-19 Social bond, with a three-year maturity, garnered interest from central banks and official institutions, bank treasuries, and asset managers including Socially Responsible Investors, with bids exceeding $4.6 billion. This is the largest Social Bond ever launched in international capital markets to date, and the largest US Dollar benchmark ever issued by the Bank. It will pay an interest rate of 0.75%.

The African Development Bank Group is moving to provide flexible responses aimed at lessening the severe economic and social impact of this pandemic on its regional member countries and Africa’s private sector.

“These are critical times for Africa as it addresses the challenges resulting from the Coronavirus. The African Development Bank is taking bold measures to support African countries. This $3 billion Covid-19 bond issuance is the first part of our comprehensive response that will soon be announced. This is indeed the largest social bond transaction to date in capital markets. We are here for Africa, and we will provide significant rapid support for countries,” said Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group.

The order book for this record-breaking bond highlights the scale of investor support, which the African Development Bank enjoys, said the arrangers.

“As the Covid-19 outbreak is dangerously threatening Africa, the African Development Bank lives up to its huge responsibilities and deploys funds to assist and prepare the African population, through the financing of access to health and to all other essential goods, services and infrastructure,” said Tanguy Claquin, Head of Sustainable Banking, Crédit Agricole CIB.

Coronavirus cases were slow to arrive in Africa, but the virus is spreading quickly and has infected nearly 3,000 people across 45 countries, placing strain on already fragile health systems. 

It is estimated that the continent will require many billions of dollars to cushion the impact of the disease as many countries scrambled contingency measures, including commercial lockdowns in desperate efforts to contain it. Globally, factories have been closed and workers sent home, disrupting supply chains, trade, travel, and driving many economies toward recession. 

Commenting on the landmark transaction, George Sager, Executive Director, SSA Syndicate, Goldman Sachs said: “In a time of unprecedented market volatility, the African Development Bank has been able to brave the capital markets in order to secure invaluable funding to help the efforts of the African

continent’s fight against Covid-19. Not only that, but in the process, delivering their largest ever USD benchmark. A truly remarkable outcome both in terms of its purpose but also in terms of a USD financing”.

The Bank established its Social Bond framework in 2017 and raised the equivalent of  $2 billion through issuances denominated in Euro and Norwegian krone. In 2018 the Bank was designated by financial markets, ‘Second most impressive social or sustainability bond issuer” at the Global Capital SRI Awards.

“We are thankful for the exceptional level of interest the Fight Covid-19 Social Bond has raised across the world, as the African Development Bank moves towards lessening the social and economic impact of the pandemic on a continent already severely constrained. Our Social bond program enables us to highlight our strong development mandate to the investor community, allowing them to play a part in improving the lives of the people of Africa. This was an exceptional outcome for an exceptional cause,” said Hassatou Diop N’Sele, Treasurer, African Development Bank.

Fight Covid-19 was allocated to central banks and official institutions (53%), bank treasuries (27%) and asset managers (20%). Final bond distribution statistics were as follows: Europe (37%), Americas (36%), Asia (17%) Africa (8%,) and Middle-East (1%).

Press Release by the African Development Bank

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