Will Rivian's Surprise Announcement Paying off for RIVN Stockholders?

Rivian Automotive, Inc. (RIVN), renowned for its off-road-capable truck and SUV models, has recently announced two new midsize EV SUV lines, including one surprise launch. This strategic move aims to broaden market reach and boost sales figures, showcasing the EV startup’s ongoing innovation within the automotive industry.

The introduction of two midsize SUV product lines – the R2 and the R3 – marks a significant expansion of RIVN’s consumer offerings alongside its existing R1T and R1S models. Among these new offerings is the R3 midsize crossover, accompanied by its high-performance variant, the R3X.

Described as a “midsize SUV delivering a blend of performance, capability, and utility in a five-seat package optimized for both adventurous outings and daily use,” the R2 boasts a starting price of $45,000. Consumers can expect the R2 to become available within the first six months of 2026.

Meanwhile, the company has already opened reservations for U.S. customers interested in midsize SUVs, with Rivian’s CEO RJ Scaringe expressing enthusiasm for the response. “In less than 24 hours, we’ve received over 68,000 R2 reservations,” Scaringe noted, emphasizing the strong resonance of the R2, R3, and R3X with the community.

RIVN plans to prioritize the launch and rapid scaling of the R2 before commencing deliveries of the R3 and its performance variant. The phased approach aims to ensure a seamless introduction of each model. Additionally, upon its debut, the R3 will be priced lower than its midsize counterpart, while the R3X promises “even more dynamic abilities both on and off-road” compared to the R3.

Navigating a Challenging Landscape

RIVN is facing a pivotal moment following its recent product launches. The initial response has provided a much-needed boost to the EV manufacturer. Shares of RIVN have gained more than 17% over the past five days. However, it’s highly doubtful if the stock will manage to sustain this momentum as Rivian’s prospects appear uncertain.

Last month, RIVN disclosed disappointing fourth-quarter 2023 results and a bleak 2024 production guidance, alongside announcing a reduction of approximately 10% in its salaried workforce. Founder and CEO RJ Scaringe attributed these actions to the challenging macroeconomic environment, citing historically high-interest rates and geopolitical uncertainty.

RIVN, which employs a total of 16,700 individuals, declined to specify the number of salaried employees affected. The workforce reduction follows two prior instances where the company laid off 6% of its staff as part of its efforts to mitigate losses.

The expansion of electric vehicle sales has also slowed over the past year, with automakers attributing some of this deceleration to high-interest rates. Concurrently, Tesla, Inc.’s (TSLA) aggressive price cuts on its vehicles have exerted pressure on competitors. RIVN reported a fourth-quarter loss of $1.52 billion last year, compared to approximately $1.72 billion during the same period in 2022.

Elon Musk, CEO of TSLA, commented last month on RIVN’s product design, acknowledging its merit but emphasizing the challenge of achieving volume production with positive cash flow. Musk suggested that RIVN could face bankruptcy within six quarters without substantial cost reductions and stressed the necessity of “cutting costs massively” for the company's survival.

Operational Realignment

RIVN’s latest announcement regarding the relocation of R2 production from a new Georgia facility to its existing plant in Illinois has stirred skepticism among investors. The decision, while touted as a cost-saving measure, raises concerns about the company's ability to manage its operations effectively.

Given the company’s history of falling short on production targets at its Illinois site, doubts loom over its capability to meet future goals. The move to halt construction in Georgia and redirect production efforts underscores underlying challenges within the company’s operational framework.

Investors, already wary of the company's cash burn rate and unmet expectations, could now face heightened uncertainty regarding its financial health and strategic direction. The abrupt shift in manufacturing plans may exacerbate apprehensions surrounding RIVN’s long-term viability in the competitive automotive market.

Investor Scrutiny

Pomerantz LLP has been investigating RIVN on behalf of its investors, focusing on potential securities fraud or other unlawful practices involving RIVN and certain executives. The probe aims to determine the veracity of allegations surrounding the company’s conduct.

RIVN’s fourth-quarter 2023 financial report highlighted significant disparities from analysts’ projections. The company disclosed its intention to produce 57,000 vehicle units in 2024, a figure notably lower than the anticipated 80,000 units.

These revelations may have far-reaching implications for RIVN and its stakeholders. Shareholders could experience negative impacts on their investments as confidence in the company's financial health and management practices may erode. Moreover, RIVN’s market value may face downward pressure amid concerns about its operational performance and strategic decision-making.

The Road Ahead

RIVN’s fourth-quarter and full-year 2023 results, unveiled on February 21, showcased a robust revenue expansion of 167.4%. However, the company notably floundered in crucial aspects beyond financial metrics, signaling significant shortcomings despite meeting revenue expectations.

More alarmingly, the EV company’s 2024 production forecast of merely 57,000 vehicles fell below analysts’ predictions, hinting at subdued revenue growth prospects for the year ahead.

Also, it’s imperative to recognize that RIVN is likely to deplete a significant portion of its cash reserves as it scales up production, prepares for the rollout of the R2 vehicle lineup, notably the R2 midsize SUV aimed at the mass market, and absorbs consequent quarterly operational deficits.

Compounding the situation, the launch timeline for the R2 models, including a budget-friendly electric pickup variant, extends beyond the current year, delaying consumer availability until 2026. The protracted timeline, coupled with anticipated ongoing losses, underscores a prolonged path toward revitalizing growth for RIVN.

Furthermore, RIVN may find itself compelled to seek external funding once more before the arrival of the R2 lineup in 2026. The potential necessity underscores the company's ongoing financial challenges and the imperative of securing additional capital to sustain its operations and strategic initiatives.

Bottom Line

RIVN’s strategic expansion with the recent announcement of new product launches could broaden the company’s market reach and boost its sales. However, despite the initial positive reception, the company could continue to face formidable challenges, including mounting losses, production delays, increasing cash burn, and fierce competition.

Therefore, until the EV company demonstrates sustainable profitability and operational stability, it could be wise to steer clear of RIVN.

Buy Alert: Is Ford (F) Entering a New EV Era?

In recent years, the automotive industry has witnessed a seismic shift towards electric vehicles (EVs), fueled by both environmental concerns and technological advancements. One company that has been at the forefront of this transition is Ford Motor Company (F).

Traditionally known for its robust lineup of combustion engine vehicles, F’s foray into the EV market has been met with both skepticism and anticipation. However, recent developments suggest that F might be poised to make a significant impact in the EV space, potentially ushering in a new era for the iconic automaker.

Over the past few years, F has worked relentlessly to capture the EV market by launching several EV models. Beginning with the electrification of its most iconic products, the Mustang, F-150, and Transit, F rapidly ascended to become the second-largest EV brand in the U.S. by 2022.

Beyond simply providing zero-emission variants of its top-selling vehicles, the company is leveraging electrification to enhance the qualities that customers cherish most: performance, capability, and productivity. F’s strategy for electrification serves as a cornerstone in the company’s broader mission to achieve worldwide carbon neutrality by the year 2050.

In addition, in 2022, the company bifurcated its EV and traditional business into two distinct units, providing investors with greater transparency into its operations. The EV division was branded as “Ford Model e,” while the conventional operation retained the name “Ford Blue.”

However, despite F’s ambitious visions, the company’s EV division has grappled with major losses. In the fourth quarter of 2023, F’s EV division “Ford Model e” posted a $1.57 billion loss, more than doubling a loss of $631 million during the fourth quarter of 2022. Meanwhile, the company’s top-line and bottom-line figures for the same quarter topped Wall Street estimates.

While discussing the losses from its EV unit during the earnings call, F’s CEO Jim Farley highlighted a pivotal lesson learned. He noted that scaling EVs from 5,000 to 7,000 units per month and entering the early majority customer segment unveiled customers’ reluctance to pay a substantial premium for EVs.

However, in light of the significant losses incurred by its EV segment and customers’ unwillingness to pay premium prices, F’s teams are unwaveringly dedicated to prioritizing cost-effectiveness and efficiency in their EV products. This strategic focus is aimed at competing effectively with more affordable models from Tesla, Inc. (TSLA) and Chinese automakers.

Farley further added that F is reconsidering its strategies regarding EVs. The automaker had previously announced its intention to delay or reduce spending by $12 billion on all-electric vehicles. He emphasized that while F remains committed to the growth of EVs, widespread adoption among mass-market consumers is unlikely until the costs are comparable to traditional vehicles.

As F scales back and reassesses its EV business, it plans to focus more on the sales of hybrid vehicles, particularly trucks. The company anticipates a 40% increase in hybrid sales this year, having sold 133,743 hybrid vehicles in the U.S. in 2023.

Apart from F’s cost-cutting measures to make its EV models cheaper for its customers, the company has further taken significant measures to bolster its EV sales. A recent notable move involves tapping into TSLA’s Supercharger Network, enabling F car owners to conveniently charge their vehicles using TSLA's North American Charging Standard (NACS) plug.

Furthermore, F is offering a complimentary charging adapter to owners of 2021 through 2024 F EV models until June 30, 2024. Following this deadline, customers can acquire the adapter from F for $230.

Also, the forthcoming generation of F EVs will come equipped with NACS plugs straight from the factory, ensuring seamless access to the TSLA Superchargers Network. CEO Farley emphasized that this initiative enhances the public charging experience, offering customers increased choice and playing a crucial role in F’s evolution as an EV brand.

On top of it, F announced its acquisition of Auto Motive Power (AMP), a startup specializing in electric charging technology and battery management software. This strategic move aims to overhaul F's charging infrastructure and reduce the costs associated with its electric vehicles.

Analysts forecast for Ford’s first-quarter earnings reveal a mixed outlook, projecting a 21% year-over-drop in its EPS, reaching $0.56. The company’s revenue, on the other hand, is anticipated to increase 8.2% year-over-year to $42.28 billion.

Bottom Line

Despite the challenges being faced by its EV business, it’s crucial to acknowledge F’s significant advancements in the EV market. By prioritizing the enhancement of performance and productivity, F’s initiatives are in alignment with global carbon neutrality goals.

These strides underscore F’s steadfast commitment to innovation and sustainability within the automotive industry, highlighting resilience amidst the obstacles encountered in its EV segment.

Moreover, F’s proactive measures to enhance EV sales through price reductions and cost-saving initiatives are yielding tangible results, marking a promising trajectory for the company's EV endeavors.

Following an 11% year-over-year decline in January EV sales, F witnessed a notable turnaround in February. In February, F delivered 6,368 electric vehicles, marking an impressive 80.8% increase compared to the previous year. Specifically, sales of its Mustang Mach-E model surged by 64.3% year-over-year, with 2,930 units sold in February.

Furthermore, by tapping into TSLA’s Supercharger Network, F is addressing a critical concern among EV owners regarding charging infrastructure, enhancing convenience and accessibility for its customers.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) revealed that the United States has only reached 3.1% of its 2030 goal for DC fast chargers without the inclusion of the TSLA’s Supercharger Network. However, when factoring in the TSLA’s Supercharger Network, this figure rises to 9.1% of the nation’s target.

As highlighted by TSLA upon the official opening of the Supercharger Network to F’s electric vehicles, the network is expanding rapidly, with the addition of one new stall every hour. Considering the domination of TSLA’s Supercharger Network, the collaboration between TSLA and F could be a pivotal step in bolstering F’s EV sales.

Additionally, F’s strategic acquisition of AMP has demonstrated the company's dedication to advancing charging technology and reducing costs associated with electric vehicles.

F also remains steadfast in its commitment to returning value to its shareholders through dividend distributions. On March 1, the company paid a quarterly dividend of $0.15 to its shareholders. The company’s annual dividend of $0.60 translates to a 4.85% yield on the prevailing price level, while its four-year average dividend yield is 4.83%.

Overall, F’s strategic initiatives and promising developments in the electric vehicle market could position the company for long-term success in the rapidly evolving EV landscape, enhancing its competitiveness and brand loyalty. To that end, investors could closely monitor this stock for potential gains.

Decoding Pharma Stocks: Analyzing the Buy Potential of MDGL, MRK, and LLY

Despite the pharmaceutical industry’s reputation for resilience amid economic turbulence, investments in pharmaceutical companies have dipped below historical levels over the past two years.

However, rising U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approvals, the increasing number of chronic diseases, and robust demand for the latest innovative weight-loss drugs have heightened the industry’s allure among investors. In 2023, the FDA approved almost 50% more novel drugs compared to 2022, restoring approval rates to historical levels.  

Meanwhile, approvals for innovative therapies featuring an active ingredient or molecule not previously sanctioned increased to 55 in 2023, a rise from 37 in 2022 and 51 in 2021. Analysts and investors believe these improvements could potentially trigger increased investments in firms operating in the industry.

Furthermore, the huge demand for the industry’s latest groundbreaking weight loss drug could prove to be highly profitable for the industry in the forthcoming years. Goldman Sachs analysts project that the number of U.S. adults utilizing obesity medications will reach a staggering 15 million by the year 2030.

Given such robust demand, drug-manufacturing companies are racing to enter the lucrative market of widely sought-after weight loss drugs that could accrue a value of tens of billions within a decade.

Buoyed the bright industry prospects, during the fourth quarter of 2023, family offices representing billionaire Waltons and George Soros made their mark in the biotechnology sector, enticed by the growing appeal of drug developers among affluent investors.

Soros Fund Management capitalized on this trend by acquiring a new stake worth $19.20 million in Eli Lilly and Company (LLY) and also made a significant investment of $24.50 million in Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK). Meanwhile, the Walton Investment Team secured a $8.20 million position in Madrigal Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (MDGL).

Therefore, let’s analyze why LLY, MRK, and MDGL could be potential buys.

Eli Lilly and Company (LLY)

Boasting a market cap of over $700 billion, pharma giant LLY has captured the spotlight, drawing attention from both retail and institutional investors alike. This fervor stems from the resounding success of its revolutionary weight-loss drugs, Mounjaro and Zepbound.  

Within a year of initiating treatment for obesity, 42.3% of individuals receiving tirzepatide, the key component in Mounjaro and Zepbound, experienced a weight loss of at least 15%. Responding to the high demand for these weight-loss medications, LLY launched its direct-to-consumer (DTC) platform named "LillyDirect" last month.

Through this website, individuals can directly order from the pharmaceutical company, including its weight-loss medication Zepbound, and access connections with telehealth companies for conditions like obesity.

Moreover, the company’s fourth-quarter performance revealed solid growth in both topline and bottom-line figures. Its total revenue reached $9.35 billion, reflecting a 28.1% year-over-year surge.

Notably, revenue from Mounjaro, LLY’s top-selling product, witnessed a staggering 689.9% year-over-year rise, underscoring the solid demand for the drug. Meanwhile, Zepbound, which was launched in November 2023, registered a revenue of $175.80 million.

In light of the overwhelming demand for its weight-loss pipeline, LLY's market capitalization surged, surpassing that of Tesla, Inc. (TSLA), thereby solidifying its position among the top 10 most valuable companies in the S&P 500 Index.

The stock’s relentless success has sparked speculation among analysts about the possibility of it becoming the first biopharmaceutical company to reach a market value of $1 trillion.

Such considerable advances, along with the LLY’s addition to Soro Fund’s equity portfolio, signify a robust endorsement of confidence in the company.

Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK)

With a strong market cap of over $323 billion and a roughly 24% surge in its shares over the past three months, a global healthcare company, MRK offers a diverse range of human health pharmaceutical products spanning oncology, hospital acute care, immunology, neuroscience, virology, cardiovascular, and diabetes.

In its most recent earnings, the company's top-selling cancer drug Keytruda generated a remarkable revenue of $6.61 billion, up 21% year-over-year, while its HPV vaccine Gardasil brought in an impressive $1.87 billion in revenue, reflecting a 27% year-over-year rise.

MRK’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Robert M. Davis, expressed immense satisfaction with the company's performance throughout last year. He highlighted MRK's significant reach, with its medicines impacting over 500 million people. Additionally, the company invested approximately $30 billion in research and development last year to drive forward the discovery and development of impactful innovations in collaboration with others.

With oncology as its primary focus, MRK recently announced its decision to acquire Harpoon Therapeutics, Inc. for an approximate total equity value of $680 million. This strategic move is anticipated to complement MRK’s existing portfolio and drive forward innovative scientific breakthroughs to serve individuals better worldwide battling cancer.

On top of it, the company is actively exploring avenues to diversify its product portfolio and could possibly venture into the burgeoning market of weight-loss drugs.

Its experimental GLP-1 drugs, initially developed to treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, have shown unforeseen indications of weight loss. Alongside targeting weight loss, the pharmaceutical company is also pursuing therapies that provide benefits for diabetes and other disorders.

Soros Fund's investment in MRK could bolster the pharma company’s growth strategies and R&D initiative. The investment signals its confidence in MRK’s performance and prospects. Furthermore, MRK's exceptional track record of dividend payouts may infuse more investor confidence in its stock performance.

Madrigal Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (MDGL)

MDGL is a pre-revenue clinical-stage pharmaceutical company developing novel drugs to address major unmet needs in cardiovascular, metabolic, and liver diseases. Over the past six months, the stock has jumped over 27%.

The company’s lead compound, resmetirom, is being advanced for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a liver disease that commonly affects people with metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

 

MDGL’s positive findings from the Phase 3 MAESTRO-NASH trial last year November demonstrate the potential effectiveness of resmetirom in treating NASH with liver fibrosis, addressing a critical unmet medical need. It is also close to being commercialized. These promising results could not only validate the company's research and development efforts but also have the potential to bolster investor confidence.

MDGL’s latest quarterly report revealed losses of $98.74 million and $5.44 per share, while its research and development expenses rose 3.9% year-over-year. Nevertheless, analysts foresee the company experiencing a final loss in fiscal year 2024 before rebounding with positive profits of $57 million in fiscal year 2025.

Also, as of September 30, 2023, its cash and cash equivalents stood at $62.06 million. However, total operational costs outpaced this liquidity by reaching $263.32 million, of which a significant $201.71 million was research and development expenses.

The company's financial capabilities may hinder certain research initiatives along with corresponding clinical expenses and curtail investment in commercial readiness. This could necessitate fundraising efforts to propel R&D or even propel commercialization strategies for its pharmaceutical product lines.

So, Walton Investment's stake in MDGL serves as a strong endorsement of the pharma giant's potential and growing portfolio. This move undoubtedly bolsters the standing of MDGL’s stocks in the market.

Bottom Line

Overall, the pharmaceutical industry remains dynamic, with companies deftly maneuvering evolving market trends and seizing opportunities for growth and innovations. Thus, investors could consider keeping an eye on the shares of LLY, MRK, and MDGL for potential gains.

Is It Time to Rethink Investing in the Magnificent 7 Stocks?

The largest companies in the S&P 500 Index have witnessed “unrelenting” outperformance over the past decade. However, history shows that mega-cap stocks typically fail to keep up their market-beating run, as per the asset allocation team at Jeremy Grantham’s GMO, an investment management firm.

By some measures, “big is generally anything but beautiful,” GMO’s co-head of asset allocation, Ben Inker and team member John Pease, said in the investment firm’s first-quarter 2024 letter to clients. “Nine of the top 10 have underperformed on average.”

The biggest stocks usually become the biggest by “way of becoming expensive, and this anti-value tilt has historically been quite costly, explaining most of these companies’ poor relative returns,” said Ben Inker and John Pease. “Since 1957, the 10 largest stocks in the S&P 500 have underperformed an equal-weighted index of the remaining 490 stocks by 2.4% per year.” 

“But the last decade has been a very notable departure from that trend, with the largest 10 outperforming by a massive 4.9% per year on average,” they wrote.

Magnificent And Concentrated

According to the GMO team, the S&P 500 has become an increasingly concentrated index over the past decade, with the top seven stocks, Microsoft Corporation (MSFT), Apple Inc. (AAPL), NVIDIA Corporation (NVDA), Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL), Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN), Meta Platforms, Inc. (META), and Tesla, Inc. (TSLA), now have surged to 28% of the total, from 13% a decade ago, as their returns are outpacing that of the average stock in the index.

These Big Tech stocks, also known as the Magnificent Seven, are being closely watched by investors after skyrocketing in 2023.

“Biasing portfolios against the very largest stocks” over the past decade has been “a disaster,” particularly last year; however, it’s been “lucrative” for most of history, as per the GMO letter. 

Despite recent trends indicating their continued growth and resilience, betting against mega-cap stocks or engaging in short selling or other strategies that profit from a decline in the stock prices of these largest companies has historically been considered a profitable strategy for reasons including valuation concerns, market cycles and mean reversion, and regulatory and antitrust risks.

“The break in the consistent downward trend of cap-weighted underperformance reflects the magnificence of the Magnificent Seven,” the letter stated.  “In 2023, as their monicker became part of the common lexicon, they outperformed the S&P 500 by an almost unimaginable 60%.”

The S&P 500 index gained about 24.2% in 2023, climbing on the back of Big Tech’s gains. Big Tech stocks’ gains were primarily driven by immense investor enthusiasm surrounding AI.

The broad S&P 500 index briefly crossed 5,000 during intraday for the first time in history last Thursday, and on Friday, it ended above the level, marking its tenth record close of 2024 at 5,026. That puts the stock market benchmark up more than 5% since the start of the year, on top of its impressive 24% gain last year.

“As far as mega caps go, they have been practically unparalleled in their outperformance” over the past decade, but 2022 was the only year when they failed to outperform the market, added Inker and Pease. In 2022, the Magnificent Seven saw significant losses of nearly 40%, mainly due to monetary tightening and interest rate hikes that adversely impacted tech-related stocks.

“This performance came in part from the unusual cheapness of mega caps at the start of the decade,” as per the letter. For instance, Apple, Microsoft, and Google boasted a combined P/E ratio of 15x in 2013; in contrast, the market’s P/E was around 25% higher.

Also, these companies managed to grow earnings “at a breakneck pace.” Inker and Pease said, “Microsoft and Amazon did so by reinventing themselves. Apple, Alphabet, Meta, Nvidia, and Tesla took over their primary industries. The medium-sized businesses among them became huge, and the large ones became giants.” 

“Ten years ago, the index was more than twice as diversified,” they wrote. “We have never seen – over any 10-year period – a decline (or increase) in diversification of the magnitude we have just witnessed.”

Comprehensive Analysis of the Magnificent Seven Stocks:

Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)

With a market cap of $3.02 trillion, Microsoft is a leading software company that operates through Productivity and Business Processes; Intelligent Cloud; and More Personal Computing segments.

In terms of forward non-GAAP P/E, MSFT is trading at 35.03x, 36.1% higher than the industry average of 25.74x. The stock’s forward Price/Sales of 12.46x is 319.8% higher than the industry average of 2.97x. Likewise, its forward Price/Book of 11.28x is 172.2% higher than the industry average of 4.15x.

MSFT is considered relatively expensive by some valuation metrics compared to its industry peers. But it’s essential to consider that what might appear costly based on traditional valuation metrics may be justified by the company’s solid fundamentals, growth trajectory, and competitive advantages.

During the fiscal 2024 second quarter that ended December 31, 2023, MSFT’s total revenue came in at $62.02 billion, beating the analysts’ estimate of $61.13 billion. That was up 17.6% from the previous year’s quarter. Its gross margin grew 20.2% from the year-ago value to $42.40 billion.

In addition, the company’s operating income increased 32.5% year-over-year to $27.03 billion. Its net income rose 33.2% from the prior year’s period to $21.87 billion. Microsoft reported earnings per share of $2.93, compared to the consensus estimate of $2.20, and up 33.2% year-over-year.

For the third quarter of 2024, Microsoft expects revenue between $60 billion and $61 billion. The software maker sees lower-than-expected cost of revenue and operating expenses during the quarter.

Analysts expect MSFT’s revenue and EPS for the third quarter ending March 2024 to increase 15.2% and 15.5% year-over-year to $60.87 billion and $2.83, respectively. Further, the company’s revenue and EPS for the fiscal year 2025 are expected to increase 14.2% and 13.7% from the previous year to $278.98 billion and $13.29, respectively.

Shares of MSFT have surged nearly 26% over the past six months and more than 50% over the past year.

Apple Inc. (AAPL)

AAPL is a leading tech company with a market cap of $2.84 trillion. Its primary products and services include iPhone, Mac, iPad, Apple Watch, and digital services, such as the App Store, Apple Music, Apple TV+, and AppleCare, among others.

In terms of forward non-GAAP P/E, AAPL is trading at 28.10x, 9.1% higher than the industry average of 25.74x. Its forward EV/Sales of 7.15x is 141.4% higher than the industry average of 2.96x. Also, its forward Price/Sales of 7.32x is 146.8% higher than the industry average of 2.97x.

Along with valuation metrics, determining whether AAPL is expensive or cheap requires analysis of other factors, such as growth prospects and market conditions.

AAPL’s net sales increased 2.1% year-over-year to $119.58 billion in the fiscal 2024 first quarter that ended December 30, 2023. Its operating income grew 12.1% year-over-year to $40.37 billion. The tech giant’s net income and earnings per share came in at $33.92 billion and $2.18, up 13.1% and 16% from the prior year’s period, respectively.

“Today Apple is reporting revenue growth for the December quarter fueled by iPhone sales, and an all-time revenue record in Services,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, in its last earnings release. “We are pleased to announce that our installed base of active devices has now surpassed 2.2 billion, reaching an all-time high across all products and geographic segments.”

Street expects AAPL’s revenue and EPS for the fiscal year (ending September 2024) to grow 1.4% and 6.9% year-over-year to $388.47 billion and $6.55, respectively. For the fiscal year 2025, the company’s revenue and EPS are expected to increase 6.2% and 9% from the prior year to $412.46 billion and $7.14, respectively.

AAPL’s stock has gained more than 6% over the past six months and approximately 18% over the past year.

NVIDIA Corporation (NVDA)

NVDA, with a $1.80 trillion market cap, NVDA is a prominent tech company that specializes in graphics processing units (GPUs), AI, and semiconductor technologies. It serves the gaming, data center, automotive, and professional visualization industries.

NVDA’s forward non-GAAP P/E of 58.79x is 127.5% higher than the 25.85x industry average. Moreover, the stock’s forward Price/Sales and Price/Book multiples of 30.33 and 40.86 are significantly higher than the respective industry averages of 2.99 and 4.17. NVIDIA is trading at a premium relative to its industry peers.

If NVDA’s growth prospects are strong, investors may be willing to pay a premium for the stock despite its higher valuation multiples.

During the fiscal 2024 third quarter ended October 29, 2023, NVIDIA posted a record revenue of $18.12 billion, an increase of 206% from the prior year’s period. Its non-GAAP operating income rose 652% year-over-year to $11.56 billion. Also, the company’s non-GAAP net income and non-GAAP EPS were $10.02 billion and $4.02, up 588% and 593% year-over-year, respectively.

For the fiscal year ending January 2024, the consensus revenue and EPS estimates of $59.18 billion and $12.36 indicate an improvement of 119.4% and 270.1% year-over-year, respectively. Further, analysts expect NVDA’s revenue and EPS for the fiscal year 2025 to increase 58.2% and $21.18 year-over-year to $93.60 billion and $21.18, respectively.

The stock has climbed more than 65% over the past six months and 218% over the past year.

Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL)

With a market cap of $1.78 trillion, GOOGL is a tech giant renowned for its internet-related products and services. Its business segments include Google Services; Google Cloud; and Other Bets. The company continues to maintain its dominance in the global online search market, boasting more than 90% market share, according to SimilarWeb data.

In terms of forward non-GAAP P/E, GOOGL is trading at 21.11x, 37.7% higher than the industry average of 15.33x. The stock’s forward Price/Sales of 5.18x is 315% higher than the industry average of 1.25x. Similarly, its forward Price/Book of 5.19x is 152.9% higher than the industry average of 2.05x. In addition to valuation metrics, assessing GOOGL’s growth prospects is crucial.

In the fourth quarter that ended December 31, 2023, GOOGL’s revenues increased 13.5% year-over-year to $86.31 billion. Its operating income grew 30.5% from the year-ago value to $23.70 billion. In addition, the company’s net income and EPS rose 51.8% and 56.2% from the prior year’s quarter to $20.69 billion and $1.64, respectively.

Street expects GOOGL’s revenue for the fiscal year 2024 to increase 11.4% year-over-year to $342.41 billion. Likewise, the consensus EPS estimate of $5.75 for the current year indicates a 16.6% rise from the prior year. Moreover, the company surpassed its consensus revenue and EPS estimates in all four trailing quarters, which is impressive.

Furthermore, the tech company’s revenue and EPS are estimated to grow 10.5% and 15.5% year-over-year to $378.35 billion and $7.81, respectively, for the fiscal year ending December 2025.

GOOGL’s shares are up more than 10% over the past six months and nearly 45% over the past year.

Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN)

With a market capitalization of $1.76 trillion, AMZN has grown to become one of the most influential tech companies, offering a wide range of products and services in areas including e-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming, and AI. Its products and services include amazon.com, the world’s largest online retailer; Amazon Web Services (AWS); Amazon Prime, a subscription service; and more.

Amazon is relatively expensive compared to its industry peers. AMZN’s forward non-GAAP P/E of 40.50x is 155.3% higher than the 15.87x industry average. The stock’s forward Price/Sales and Price/Book multiples of 2.75 and 6.36 are considerably higher than the respective industry averages of 0.95 and 2.66.

Now, let’s talk about the company’s growth prospects. AMZN’s total net sales increased 13.9% year-over-year to $169.96 billion for the fourth quarter that ended December 31, 2023. Its operating income grew 382.6% from the year-ago value to $13.21 billion. The company’s net income and EPS significantly grew year-over-year to $10.62 billion and $1, respectively.

Analysts expect AMZN’s revenue for the fiscal year 2024 to increase 11.6% year-over-year to $641.44 billion. The company’s EPS for the ongoing year is expected to grow 44.6% from the previous year to $4.19. Also, the company topped consensus revenue and EPS estimates in each of the trailing four quarters.

AMZN’s stock has surged nearly 23% over the past six months and more than 65% over the past year.

Meta Platforms, Inc. (META)

Formerly known as Facebook, Inc., META, with a market cap of $1.23 trillion, is a technology conglomerate with key products, including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger. 

In terms of forward non-GAAP P/E, META is trading at 28.10x, 9.1% higher than the industry average of 25.74x. Its forward EV/Sales of 7.15x is 141.4% higher than the industry average of 2.96x. Also, its forward Price/Sales of 7.32x is 146.8% higher than the industry average of 2.97x.

META posted revenue of $39.17 billion for the fourth quarter that ended December 31, 2023, up 24.7% year-over-year. Its income from operations rose 156% year-over-year to $16.38 billion. Its net income grew 201.3% from the year-ago value to $14.02 billion. The company reported earnings per share attributable to Class A and Class B common stockholders of $5.33, up 202.8% year-over-year.

For the first quarter of 2024, META expects total revenue to be in the range of $34.50-37 billion. For the full year 2024, the management expects total expenses to be in the range of $94-99 billion, unchanged from the prior outlook.

Street expects Meta’s revenue and EPS for the fiscal year (ending December 2024) to grow 17.4% and 32.4% year-over-year to $158.39 billion and $19.69, respectively. For the fiscal year 2025, the company’s revenue and EPS are expected to increase 12.2% and 15.2% from the previous year to $177.68 billion and $22.96, respectively.

The stock has gained approximately 45% over the past three months and more than 170% over the past year.

Tesla, Inc. (TSLA)

With a $638.39 billion market cap, TSLA designs, develops, manufactures, leases, and sells electric vehicles (EVs) and energy generation and storage systems internationally. The company operates in two segments: Automotive; and Energy Generation and Storage. 

In terms of forward non-GAAP P/E, TSLA is trading at 62.61x, 294.6% higher than the industry average of 15.87x. The stock’s forward Price/Sales of 5.75x is 507.9% higher than the industry average of 0.95x. Likewise, its forward Price/Cash Flow of 48.16x is 282.9% higher than the industry average of 10.54x. Along with valuation metrics, assessing TSLA’s fundamentals and growth prospects is essential.

During the fourth quarter that ended December 31, 2023, TSLA’s revenues decreased 3% year-over-year to $25.17 billion. Its income from operations declined 47% from the year-ago value to $2.06 billion. Its adjusted EBITDA was $3.95 billion, down 27% from the prior year’s period.

In addition, the company’s non-GAAP net income and EPS declined 39% and 40% from the prior year’s quarter to $2.49 billion and $0.71, respectively. But its free cash flow came in at $2.06 billion, an increase of 45% year-over-year.

Analysts expect TSLA’s revenue for the first quarter (ending March 2024) to increase 9.3% year-over-year to $25.49 billion. However, the consensus EPS estimate of $0.68 for the current quarter indicates a 20.5% decline year-over-year. Additionally, the company missed consensus revenue and EPS estimates in three of the trailing four quarters, which is disappointing.

For the fiscal year 2024, the company’s revenue and EPS are expected to grow 14.7% and 2.6% from the prior year to $110.97 billion and $3.20, respectively. TSLA’s shares have surged nearly 20% over the past nine months.

Bottom Line

Over the past decades, mega-cap stocks have demonstrated periods of outperformance and underperformance, reflecting several shifts in market dynamics and economic conditions.

While the largest companies in the S&P 500 have seen “unrelenting” outperformance over the past decade, history shows the biggest stocks generally fail to keep up their market-beating run. Citing data from 1957-2023, co-head of asset allocation Ben Inker and team member John Pease found that nine of the ten largest S&P 500 stocks underperformed on average.

“The historical underperformance of the top 10 comes down to the two main sources of return – valuation expansion and fundamental growth – being harder to achieve than for your average company. The largest stocks generally become the largest by way of becoming expensive, and this anti-value tilt has historically been quite costly, explaining most of these companies’ poor relative returns,” Inker and Pease wrote.

Since 1957, the ten biggest stocks in the S&P 500 underperformed an equal-weighted index of the remaining 490 stocks by 2.4% per year. However, the last decade seems to notably depart from that downtrend, with the largest ten outperforming by an impressive 4.9% per year on average.

So far, in 2024, the following four stocks in the Magnificent Seven are beating the S&P 500: Nvidia, Meta, Amazon, and Microsoft.

For investors considering buying, holding, or selling the Magnificent Seven stocks, it is crucial to assess each stock individually based on its fundamentals, valuation, growth prospects, and risk factors.

Investor Concerns Rise as Tesla Slashes Prices in China: Sell or Hold?

China’s electric vehicle (EV) stocks started the new year on the wrong foot, as heightened competition and continued price wars pressurized the profitability of automakers.

Morgan Stanley highlighted growing competition concerns in its note: “Investors remain cautious as China’s auto market has had a volatile start to the year as competition and macro uncertainties persist.”

Also, in a report on the Chinese EV industry earlier this month, Bernstein analysts said, “We expect competition within the domestic market to remain intense and put pressure on pricing and profitability.”

There are too many automakers fighting for EV market share in China. Tesla, Inc. (TSLA) has slashed the prices of its Shanghai-made vehicles by up to 6% in a strategic move to maintain its leading position in the premium segment of the world’s largest EV market.

The Texas-based company recently announced that the base version of the Model Y crossover vehicle starts at nearly $36,000, a decline from about $37,000. The base Model 3 now starts at about $34,500, down from $36,500.

Tesla has cut prices aggressively across its markets worldwide since late 2022 due to higher interest rates, a period of uneconomic certainty, shifting consumer sentiment, and intense competition.

For instance, a U.S. rear-wheel drive Model 3 began at approximately $47,000 in 2022. Its price was cut to about $44,000 in January 2023 and $40,000 following a price cut in April. After one more cut in October, the price of a new U.S. Model 3 ended 2023 at about $39,000.

The recent price cuts in China by Tesla will fuel more fears about competition and profit margins among investors.

Shares of TSLA have plunged more than 7% over the past month and nearly 19% over the past six months.

Now, let’s discuss several other factors that could impact TSLA’s performance in the upcoming months:

Quarterly Deliveries and Production Beat Estimates

Tesla delivered nearly 484,000 vehicles in the fourth quarter, surpassing analyst expectations of 483,173, as compiled by Bloomberg. The company produced 494,989 vehicles, beating the consensus estimate of 482,336. For the full year 2023, the Elon Musk-led automaker reported deliveries of 1.81 million and production of 1.85 million, representing growth of 38% and 35% year-over-year, respectively.

The company delivered 461,538 Model 3 and Model Y vehicles during the fourth quarter and reported production of 461,538 for these models. TSLA didn’t break down Model S or X production or delivery numbers, instead batched them into “Other Models.” It delivered 22,969 other models and produced 18,212 vehicles for the quarter.

In 2022, TSLA reported annual deliveries of 1.31 million and production of 1.37 million vehicles, a nearly 40% increase from 2021.

During the last earnings call held in October 2023, TSLA’s management said that the company would hit at least 1.8 million deliveries for the full year, a number they had revised down from a 2 million target earlier.

Dethroned as the EV Global King

Chinese automaker BYD Co. (BYDDY) reported that it delivered 526,409 fully electric cars during the fourth quarter, topping TSLA for the first time. China’s top-selling car brand reported EV and hybrid sales of 341,043 in December 2023, including 190,754 all-electric cars, aided by aggressive year-of-year discounting. In total, BYD sold 3.01 million vehicles in 2023.

Moreover, BYD produced more than 3 million new electric vehicles in 2023, beating TSLA’s production for a second consecutive year.

Disappointing Last Reported Financials

In the third quarter that ended September 30, 2023, TSLA posted revenue of $23.35 billion, missing analysts’ estimates of $24.14 billion. Its gross profit decreased 22.4% year-over-year to $4.18 billion. The company’s operating expenses increased 42.5% year-over-year to $2.41 billion.

Musk-led EV maker reported income from operations of $1.76 billion, down 52.2% from the prior year’s period. Its adjusted EBITDA declined 24.4% year-over-year to $3.76 billion. The automaker’s adjusted net income attributable to common stockholders decreased 36.6% from the previous year’s quarter to $2.32 billion.

Furthermore, the company reported an adjusted EPS of $0.66 for the third quarter, below the consensus estimate of $0.73. That compared to $1.05 in the same quarter of 2022.

Tesla’s net cash provided by operating activities was $3.31 billion, down 35.1% year-over-year. Its free cash flow decreased 74.3% from the year-ago value to $848 million.

Unfavorable Analyst Estimates

Analysts expect TSLA’s revenue for the fourth quarter (ended December 2023) to increase 6% year-over-year to $25.76 billion. However, the consensus EPS estimate of $0.73 for the same period reflects a 38.3% year-over-year decline. In addition, the company has missed the consensus revenue estimates in three of the trailing four quarters.

For the fiscal year 2023, the company’s EPS is expected to decrease 21.8% year-over-year to $3.18. Street expects the automaker’s EPS to decline 4.6% year-over-year to $0.81 for the first quarter ending March 2024.

Suspension of Production at German Factory

According to Reuters, Tesla plans to suspend most production at its factory outside Berlin in Grunheide, Germany, from around January 29 to February 11 due to the ongoing conflict in the Red Sea that has disrupted global trade.

“The considerably longer transportation times are creating a gap in supply chains,” Tesla told Reuters in a statement.

Analysts at Baird estimate Tesla produces between 5,000 vehicles and 7,000 vehicles per week at its Berlin factory. The shutdown of this vehicle assembly plant in Germany would result in a 10,000-14,000 hit to deliveries in the first quarter of 2024, said analysts Ben Kallo and David Sunderland in a note.

The Baird analysts added that they are “wary” of further effects on the company’s supply chain, and they are “closely monitoring” any impact on its shipping routes from China.

Tesla EVs in Regulators’ Scrutiny

Moving into 2024, Tesla faces growing pressure from regulators. The auto giant faces a new investigation from regulators in Norway and Sweden after a Reuters report alleging that the company covered up defects and charged its customers for repairs that should have been under warranty.

In a statement to Reuters, Sweden’s Transport Agency confirmed “that investigative work is also underway with us” shortly after Norway’s traffic safety regulator launched its probe into reports of repeated suspension failures affecting Tesla models.

Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA) senior engineer Tor-Ove Satren stated that the agency began questioning Tesla in September 2022 and asked the auto company to assess consumer complaints about lower rear control arms breaking on its Model S and X vehicles.

Satren added the agency could recommend that Tesla recall all model years of the S and X vehicles to replace rear lower control arms if it determines they pose a “serious risk.”

Concerns Surrounding Tesla’s Cybertruck

Experts raised safety concerns regarding the angular design of Tesla’s Cybertruck as the electric pickup truck’s stiff stainless-steel exoskeleton could hurt pedestrians and cyclists, damaging other vehicles on roads.

“The big problem there is if they really make the skin of the vehicle very stiff by using thick stainless steel, then when people hit their heads on it, it’s going to cause more damage to them,” said Adrian Lund, the former president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), whose vehicle crash tests are an industry standard.

Elon Musk earlier mentioned in Tesla’s third-quarter earnings call that the company was facing several challenges in scaling its production. He also cautioned that Cybertruck won’t deliver considerable positive cashflow for 12 to 18 months after production starts.

Musk said, “It is going to require immense work to reach volume production and be cashflow positive at a price that people can afford” with the Cybertruck. He added, “I just want to temper expectations for Cybertruck. It’s a great product, but financially, it will take a year to 18 months before it is a significant positive cash flow contributor.”

Elevated Valuation

In terms of forward non-GAAP P/E, TSLA is currently trading at 68.73x, 345.6% higher than the industry average of 15.42x. Likewise, the stock’s trailing-12-month EV/Sales and EV/EBITDA of 6.94x and 41x are significantly higher than the industry averages of 1.23x and 9.88x, respectively.

Additionally, the stock’s forward Price/Sales of 7.12x is 695.1% higher than the industry average of 0.89x. Its forward Price/Cash Flow multiple of 54.58 compares to the industry average of 9.88.

Decelerating Profitability

TSLA’s trailing-12-month EBITDA margin and net income margin of 15.80% and 11.21% are higher than the respective industry averages of 10.96% and 4.56%. However, the stock’s trailing-12-month gross profit margin of 19.81% is 44% lower than the 35.38% industry average.

Also, the stock’s trailing-12-month levered FCF margin of 1.68% is 68.9% lower than the industry average of 5.40%.

Bottom Line

TSLA has repeatedly cut prices in China and other global markets since late 2022, leading other automakers to respond and squeezing profit margins industry-wide. Several price cuts were made due to weakened demand amid higher interest rates and a period of economic uncertainty coupled with intense competition in the EV industry.

Following the decline of news that the company could suspend production at its Giga Berlin factory due to Red Sea-related supply disruptions, Tesla’s stock plunged further after the automaker announced new price cuts in China. These price cuts come as competition continues to get intense on the Chinese mainland.

Moreover, BYD has gone more upmarket, pushing into segments where TSLA operated and found success.

The automaker’s third-quarter revenue and earnings missed analysts’ estimates. Further, Wall Street appears bearish about TSLA’s outlook as the company grapples with several challenges, including supply disruptions, growing regulatory concerns, sliding margins due to price cuts, intense competition, and weakened consumer demand amid a high-interest rate environment.

In mainland China, passenger EV sales growth plunged to 28% in the third quarter of 2023 compared to 108% in the same period a year ago, as per China Association of Automobile Manufacturers data quoted by Fitch Ratings.

According to Fitch Ratings, the growth slowdown will get worse this year. “We expect China’s domestic passenger car demand to increase modestly in 2024 to nearly 22 million units amid economic uncertainty,” said Fitch Ratings.

Considering these factors, TSLA shares are best avoided now.