An online army of skeptics and amateur sleuths that has spent years promoting bets against Tesla senses an opportunity to renew pressure on the electric carmaker after the failure of Chief Executive Elon Musk’s plan to take it private.
“It’s … energized our skepticism,” Ferguson, who said he has a bearish options position on Tesla shares, told Reuters via Twitter.
Ferguson is only one of thousands of Tesla bears who use Twitter to crowdsource financial data, photos, satellite imagery and video footage of Tesla facilities to shed light on the company’s production and sales figures to support their view that the stock is overvalued.
A spokesman for Tesla declined to comment on short-sellers, who are often dubbed “haters” by Musk’s supporters on Twitter.
Tesla has said it has various lots in California where it keeps cars before delivering them to distribution outlets.
Others use drones to gather footage of Tesla production facilities, scour Tesla’s financial filings and pore over Musk’s statements for inconsistencies.
Musk’s Aug. 7 tweet that he had “funding secured” for the deal and a subsequent New York Times interview in which he described his critics as “smartish” sparked a frenzy of online lampoons of the 47-year-old billionaire CEO.
Short-sellers said all eyes will now be on mounting litigation against Tesla, the progress of the SEC probe, and Tesla’s cash flow and debt.
East Coast-based small business owner Paul Shust, who told Reuters he uses information posted on $TSLAQ FinTwit and has an options bets against Tesla, said he was so upset by Musk’s Aug. 7 tweet that he wrote to SEC Commissioner Kara Stein that day, according to an email seen by Reuters.
Stein’s office did not respond to a request for comment. The SEC has not commented on Musk’s tweets.
Loss-making Tesla told investors earlier this month that it expects to show a profit in the third and fourth quarters and has reiterated that it does not plan to seek new capital from shareholders, something Wall Street analysts have questioned.
NO SHORT SQUEEZE
Wall Street is broadly divided on Tesla. Of 27 analysts tracked by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, 10 have hold ratings on the stock, nine recommend buying and eight recommend selling.
Tesla is the most short-sold stock in the United States, with investors betting around $10.18 billion that the company’s shares will fall, according to financial technology and analytics firm S3 Partners.
Short-sellers borrow shares and then sell them, hoping to buy them back at a lower price and pocket the difference.