I taught the first session of my valuation class, that I previewed in my last post, today. As part of that class, I do what I call a “valuation of the week”, where I pick a company and value it and then post both my valuation (with the spreadsheet and the raw data that I used) and a shared Google spreadsheet for anyone who wants to take my valuation and make it their own (by changing the assumptions). I do this for two reasons. First, I believe that you learn valuation by valuing real companies in real time, not by talking about valuation or reading about it. Second, from a purely selfish standpoint, I pick the companies that I find interesting as potential investments or as real world case studies for my valuations of the week. I find the “crowd valuation” that emerges from this process to be useful in reassessing my own valuations.
As my first valuation of the week, I picked Tesla, for three reasons. First, as a technology company in an otherwise capital-intensive, mature business (the automobile manufacturing business), it stands out. Second, the company has a charismatic CEO, Elon Musk, an ambitious man (and I don’t mean that in a negative sense) with a great deal of imagination. Third, the stock has taken off in the last year, up more than 500%, fueled by both positive news on the product front as well as on the financial front (increasing revenues, declining losses, paying down of debt).
The ingredients that make a young, money-losing company into a valuable, mature company are no secret: small revenues have to become big revenues, operating losses have to turn to profits, there has to be enough reinvestment (but not too much) to make these changes and the risk has to subside. I am assuming all of these at Tesla but my estimated value per share of $67.12 is well below the market price of $168.76.