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Tesla dealt another blow when Barclays calls it a ‘niche carmaker'

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Tesla dealt another blow when Barclays calls it a ‘niche carmaker'.

[NEW YORK] The blows keep coming for Tesla Inc, even as the shares have shed about a fifth of their value in the past month. The latest knock comes from Barclays analyst Brian Johnson, who said the company may be relegated to the status of a niche luxury carmaker. Shares are lower in pre-market trading, down 0.5 per cent.

The analyst dropped his price target on the stock on Thursday to US$150 from US$192, writing that demand for Tesla's Model 3 has stagnated in the US. The company lacks a path to significant profitability from its auto business and its solar storage installations have declined sequentially over the past two quarters, Mr Johnson said. And Chief Executive Elon Musk's attempt to pivot to a "full robotaxi scenario" also failed to spring excitement around Tesla's self-driving capabilities.

"We expect more investors to gravitate back to Tesla's near-term fundamentals of demand, profitability and cash generation," Mr Johnson wrote in a note to clients, maintaining his underweight rating on the stock. The analyst said his model estimates most closely mimic a scenario where Tesla is a "niche luxury" carmaker, leading to a share price of US$133.

Mr Johnson's new price target is one of the lowest on Wall Street, with only analysts at Cowen, Williams Research, Vertical Group and Churchill Research holding lower targets, according to Bloomberg data. The average of the four lowest targets implies a 54 per cent downside from Wednesday's closing price.

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After a 43 Per cent rout in Tesla's stock this year, triggered mainly by concerns around demand and liquidity, some have speculated the bubble has burst, and investors are more likely to focus more on profit, margins and sales rather than promises of an industry-leading robotaxi fleet.

Yet some say this is just a rough phase and will soon pass. According to New Street Research's Pierre Ferragu, who has a US$530 target on Tesla, the company has captured about 15 per cent of the premium car market in the US in March and April and has "unprecedented pricing power."

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