Elon Musk’s fortune soared $570 million yesterday as shares of Tesla Motor Inc. (TSLA:US), the electric-car company he co-founded in 2003, rallied 14 percent after posting second-quarter results that surpassed analysts’ estimates on a surge in Model S sedan deliveries.
Musk has a net worth of $7.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, up more than 220 percent year-to-date. He’s the world’s 162nd richest person.
The company on Wednesday reported an operating profit of 20 cents a share, including 15 cents related to a leasing program. Even without that provision, results exceeded the average of 10 analysts’ estimates for a 20-cent loss, according data compiled by Bloomberg. On its operating basis, Tesla said it will make money all year, even as it expands to Europe and Asia.
“He’s very clearly managing all the moving parts that you have to manage to put together an effective car company,” said Karl Brauer, an analyst with Kelley Blue Book in Irvine, California. “For the people who can afford those cars, this car is very effectively lining up with their needs: an attractive premium looking and feeling, functional all-electric car.”
Shares of the Palo Alto, California-based company closed at $153.48 in New York yesterday, bringing its market value to more than $18.2 billion. Model S deliveries totaled 5,150 in the quarter, topping the company’s target of 4,500, and Musk said on Wednesday that an annual selling rate of 40,000 by the end of next year looks “pretty safe.”
Tesla said its operating margins were 22 percent, up from 17 percent in the first quarter. The company said it expects to post operating profits and generate cash every quarter in 2013, even excluding sales of green-car credits to other automakers.
Born in South Africa to an engineer father and nutritionist mother, Musk left home as a 17-year-old for college in Canada, in part to avoid serving in the apartheid-era South African army. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with degrees in physics and economics, he enrolled at Stanford University. He dropped out after his first few days to pursue his three main areas of interest: the Internet, clean energy and space.
In 1995, the billionaire created an online publishing platform called Zip2, which he sold four years later for more than $300 million. He reinvested some of the proceeds to start X.com, an online payment system. He would merge that with what eventually became PayPal Inc., the e-commerce site that was ultimately sold to EBay Inc. (EBAY:US) for $1.5 billion in 2002.
Musk also runs rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, and is chairman of solar-power provider SolarCity Corp. (SCTY:US)
“He’s proving his critics wrong,” Jack Ablin, who helps oversee about $66 billion as chief investment officer of BMO Private Bank in Chicago, said by phone. “He’s delivering on the top line, he’s selling more product. He’s able to extract a premium price for an electric car.”
Tesla’s Model S, priced from $69,900 before a $7,500 tax credit, received the highest rating ever from Consumer Reports, which praised its sporty handling and luxury interior. Musk said the sedan is winning customers who had owned Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius and Daimler AG (DAI)’s Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Toyota and Daimler are investors in Tesla and buyers of its battery packs.
The company’s Model X sport-utility vehicle remains on track to begin sales late next year, Musk said, adding that its development is “swiftly rising” among the company’s priorities. The SUV will be priced about the same as the Model S, he said last month in a post on Twitter that has since been deleted.
Beyond that, Musk said he has “high confidence” that Tesla will be able to produce a more affordable car with a 200-mile (320-kilometer) range for about $35,000.
Tesla began delivering the first Model S sedans to customers in Europe this week and is preparing to export to Asia late in 2013. Musk, who is also the company’s biggest investor, has said that over time two-thirds of Tesla’s sales will come from overseas markets.
“He’s one of these guys who has multiple ideas that have been successful,” Brauer said. “He’s done it two, three times depending on how you want to define it. Theoretically, it’s the American dream.”
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