2024 Outlook: Analyzing RIVN’s Competitive Edge Gained From AT&T Partnership

The automotive industry is witnessing a major seismic shift toward technological advancements. Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming mainstream at an unprecedented rate, showing no signs of slowing down in the upcoming decade. The U.S. EV sales surpassed the 300,000 mark for the first time in 2023's third quarter.

Despite the turbulence created by widespread price wars throughout 2023, coupled with inflation and surplus inventory, the EV market continues to ascend. Even though the growth hasn't been as vigorous as initially forecasted, companies like Rivian Automotive, Inc. (RIVN) continue to carry momentum into 2024, recently enhancing its prospects with positive news.

Wireless carrier AT&T Inc. (T) has entered into a partnership agreement with RIVN, announcing its decision to receive a range of pilot electric delivery vans (EDVs), R1T pickup trucks, and R1S sport utility vehicles commencing in 2024. The main objectives of this joint venture are to assess cost-efficiency, amplify safety measures, and reduce the carbon footprint.

For many years, T has been progressively converting its commercial fleet into vehicles operating on alternative fuels, including compressed natural gas and hybrid electric vehicles. To meet its ambitious goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2035, T is leveraging EVs coupled with route optimization and artificial intelligence (AI). Adding to this initiative, T is the exclusive provider of connectivity for RIVN vehicles, facilitating seamless over-the-air (OTA) software updates.

Considering stringent environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) goals and emission reduction targets, companies are fiercely competing to transition toward zero-emission fleets. High interest rates have posed affordability challenges for consumers as they increase the already hefty price tags of EVs compared to traditional gas-powered vehicles, leading to raised concerns over softening demands.

RIVN reported considerable interest and demand for its electric vans. In November, the company announced it was in dialogues with other potential customers, reinforcing speculations of additional EDV partnerships on the horizon for RIVN despite not revealing any specific names.

Last month, RIVN ended its exclusivity deal with Amazon (AMZN) for its EDV. This move provides RIVN with the opportunity to market its EDVs to a broader client base, with T reportedly being its first outside customer. The termination doesn’t impact the previously stated commitment from RIVN to fulfill an order of 100,000 vans for AMZN by the end of this decade. Indicative of progressive momentum, AMZN already had over 10,000 Rivian EDVs in operation as of October.

Moreover, RIVN also outlined its production strategy for the near future. The manufacturing plant in Normal, Illinois, is scheduled to cease operations for a single week at the closing of 2023 in anticipation of a more extended shutdown in mid-2024.

This hiatus aims to facilitate extensive line modifications and advancements, including part design changes, component simplification, and optimizations to elements such as the HVAC system and vehicle body structure. While these temporary production halts are expected to reduce output in the short term, they are deemed necessary to enable cost reductions and augment long-term production capacity.

“The impacts of the shutdown are temporary in nature, but the benefits will be there for the future,” said RIVN’s chief financial officer, Claire McDonough.


Last month, Irvine, California-based RIVN raised its production forecast for the full year by 2,000 vehicles to 54,000 units on the back of sustained demand for its trucks and SUVs. Management forecasts 2023 adjusted EBITDA of negative $4 billion.

Analysts expect RIVN’s revenue to surge 164.6% year-over-year to $4.39 billion, while EPS is expected to stay negative at $4.92 for the fiscal year ending December 2023.

Moreover, RIVN’s stock is trading above its 50-, 100-, and 200-day moving averages, indicating an uptrend. Wall Street analysts expect the stock to reach $25.63 in the next 12 months, indicating a potential upside of 8.9%. The price target ranges from a low of $15 to a high of $40.

What are the Bumps in the road for RIVN?

Since its IPO two years ago, the automaker has experienced a tumultuous journey due to overall market conditions and operational challenges. Widespread supply-chain disruptions have further exacerbated conditions for the entire automobile industry, with RIVN facing its unique set of complexities during its launch. Some challenges the company encountered included product recalls and price rises that were subsequently required to be reversed.

RIVN’s products remain strong, even with a relatively limited product line. Moreover, it is expected to begin production in 2026 in Georgia on a lower-cost consumer EV called the R2. Given the steady increase in production, it is not anticipated that RIVN will reach profitability imminently.

The company's quarterly cash expenditure is estimated to be approximately $1 billion. Given its significant distance from attaining mass production levels required for improved cost efficiency, RIVN may face additional challenges in the foreseeable future.

Bottom Line

RIVN's operation has seen decent stability in the past year, although its share value contends with apprehensive investors troubled by unmet production benchmarks, expanding debts, and considerable financial losses. So far this year, RIVN shares have appreciated by roughly 28%. Yet, they currently trade 70% lower than its IPO price of $78.

The earlier-than-expected bond issuance in October took shareholders by surprise, triggering a sell-off that significantly undercut the stock's value. However, market analysts foresee possible improvements as the company extricates itself from supply chain predicaments that have plagued recent quarters.

The automaker's upbeat forecast serves as a glimmer of hope for a sector grappling with the adverse effects of inflated costs, sagging consumer interest, and price reductions aimed at stirring demand. In a departure from the norm, RIVN has opted not to lower prices, choosing instead to manufacture its Enduro powertrains in-house, a decision aimed at decreasing supplier dependence and cost overheads.

Despite delivering vehicles for eight consecutive quarters, the company still posts negative gross margins. RIVN's immediate priority is achieving a positive gross margin, which will place it on the path to operating profit. This feat, however, cannot be accomplished until gross profits outperform rising operating expenditures, currently estimated at an average of about $1 billion per quarter.

Following this, RIVN needs to generate sufficient operational profit and cash flow to fund its CAPEX, consequently transitioning RIVN to cash flow positivity. Achieving this landmark will require a minimum of five years, given that sales of R1 and EDV models alone will not secure profitability or positive cash flow. The successful launch and profitable scaling of the R2 model by 2026 is integral to the realization of this goal.

Its primary challenge is attaining positive free cash flow to sustain growth independent of balance sheet reserves. Although the financial outlook has improved, there are enduring concerns over whether its $7.94 billion cash reserve, as of September 2023, would suffice, considering that RIVN postponed previously anticipated CAPEX this year. An initial CAPEX projection of $2 billion in 2023 has been revised to $1.1 billion.

RIVN can leverage capital markets for additional funding. While debt financing may not be the most attractive approach amid the prevailing high-interest-rate climate, interest rates could potentially decrease by the time RIVN finds a pressing need for such resources, likely not before 2026. Another plausible circumstance suggests that an increased valuation for RIVN could render equity financing a more appealing strategy to accrue funds instead of accumulating debt.

In either case, it's noteworthy to mention the company’s commendable efforts toward curbing its cash burn rate. Investors are advised to keep a vigilant eye on RIVN's financial activities in the coming year to monitor whether this trend sustains. An unforeseen increase in cash burn over a span of a few quarters would not necessarily amount to a significant detriment to the firm, given the time it has before the requirement to inject more capital arises.

Keeping these considerations in mind, investors should wait for a better entry point into the stock.


Top 4 Christmas Stocks to Buy in 2023

As the festive season ushers in, thoughts gravitate toward the traditions of exchanging gifts, feasting with family, and warming up by the fireside, all while the holiday shopping spree kick-starts with much vivacity.

The holiday period invariably translates to a considerable economic surge for retailers and related sectors, starting with "Black Friday" – a day marked in retail history for transfiguring from the “red” of losses into the “black” of profits. This year's consumer expenditure reached an unprecedented high, with $9.8 billion splurged on Black Friday deals and an outstanding $12.4 billion on Cyber Monday.

A record-breaking 200.4 million consumers shopped during the five-day holiday weekend, extending from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, outpacing last year's peak of 196.7 million. As per the National Retail Federation (NRF), the average spend was $321.41 on holiday-related purchases throughout the Thanksgiving weekend. Toys, electronics, and gift cards emerged as the most coveted items.

An unprecedented festive surge is projected this December as retailers anticipate record-breaking consumer expenditure. This period, often correlated with the 'Santa Rally,' generates a stock market surge during the concluding week of December, extending into the New Year. LPL Financial found that since 1950, a Santa Claus rally has occurred around 79% of the time.

These staggering statistics oppose the predictions of some economic analysts who warn of an imminent recession within the U.S. and expect the current equity rally to stumble as the year concludes.

The holiday period shopping traditionally elevates sales for retailers and associated businesses, resulting in potential stock price increases. The year-end rally boosts investors’ portfolios, whereas professional traders often regard it as crucial when calculating their end-of-year bonuses. There is no doubt that the Santa Claus rally this year would be broadly embraced, given the volatilities witnessed.

Investment focus is increasingly geared toward stocks providing substantial opportunities in the immediate future. Some stocks could be more profitable than others if secured before their price rise. Hence, many investors opt for Christmas stocks to capitalize on the bustling holiday shopping season.

Given this backdrop, let us delve into an in-depth analysis of Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN), Visa Inc. (V), Walmart Inc. (WMT), and Etsy, Inc. (ETSY) now.

Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN)

Amazon has established itself as a global behemoth, wielding substantial market dominance fostered by its vast network. As we approach the holiday season, there is strong anticipation that the retail stock will experience a considerable rise.

This prediction comes from AMZN’s record-breaking sales in November, with one billion items sold over 11 days of extended promotional deals. This impressive feat was achieved despite the "biggest ever global strike" orchestrated by Make Amazon Pay, an activist campaign that advocated for improved pay and better working conditions for laborers.

According to AMZN, customers purchased more than 500 million products via independent sellers during the holiday shopping festivities and an exponential growth in Prime membership signups throughout this period was witnessed.

The company has disclosed that shoppers saved nearly 70% more on their purchases than the previous year, with promises of "millions more deals" being made available until December 24.

The company attributes much of its success to a large, loyal customer base, who trust the brand and greatly value its services. AMZN's variety of client benefits during the festive season – expeditious delivery, discounts, enticing deals, streamlined return and refund policies, and rewards, enhance repeat purchases and encourage referrals.

With recent inflationary pressures easing, consumer sentiments are showing signs of improvement, bolstering the potential for increased spending. Combining these factors, December could be a highly profitable month for AMZN.

For the fiscal fourth quarter ending December, its revenue is expected to grow 11.2% year-over-year to $165.85 billion, while EPS is expected to increase significantly year-over-year to $0.76.

Wall Street analysts expect the stock to reach $177 in the next 12 months, indicating a potential upside of about 20%. The price target ranges from a low of $145 to a high of $210.

Visa Inc. (V)

V, a leading fintech corporation, is commanding in the global credit and debit card markets. Acting as an essential intermediary between purchasers and vendors, V conducted over 192 billion transactions in 2022 across 160 nations.

The company's significant role has generated substantial profits for V and its shareholders. For the fourth fiscal quarter of 2023, the firm reported revenues of $8.61 billion, a 10.6% year-over-year increase. Its income amounted to $4.68 billion, with earnings per share at $2.27.

V’s unique business model allows consumers desiring to postpone their holiday expenses with minimum risk and maximum benefit. V profits whenever individuals make higher charges on their cards, with both transaction value and quantity contributing to the income. As V does not offer direct loans to consumers, the impact of defaulting is substantially lower.

Expressing high hopes for the company's future, V's CEO Ryan McInerney stated, "There is tremendous opportunity ahead, and I am as optimistic as ever about Visa’s role in the future of payments.”

However, America faces a mounting credit card debt crisis. As of September 2023, the total card balance reached a record high of $1.08 trillion. Strikingly, the average credit card interest rate touched 27%, representing the highest figure in nearly three decades.

As we enter the holiday season, consumer spending on credit cards is expected to rise. Deloitte reports that the average holiday shopper anticipates expending $1,652 this year, the most considerable amount seen in the past three years. Much of this spending will be charged to cards. In an October survey of 1,036 consumers by CardRates.com, 38% indicated that they anticipated carrying holiday credit card debt into the new year.

Although increased consumer debt translates into more risks for V, the potential spending slowdown also threatens the company as it has fewer tools for growth. Despite the company's valuation not being as high as in the past, this could represent an excellent opportunity for those aiming to take advantage of the inevitable credit card spending surge over the festive season.

Analysts expect V’s revenue and EPS for the quarter ending December 2023 to increase 7.7% and 7.3% year-over-year to $8.54 billion and $2.34, respectively. Moreover, Wall Street analysts expect the stock to reach $277.47 in the next 12 months, indicating a potential upside of 8.9%. The price target ranges from a low of $243 to a high of $295.

Walmart Inc. (WMT)

WMT has evolved into a powerful force within the omnichannel market. Strategic acquisitions of companies like Bonobos, Moosejaw, and Parcel and collaborative partnerships with industry heavyweights like Shopify and Goldman Sachs bolstered this transformation. Further expansion efforts, including implementing delivery systems Walmart + and Express Delivery, and investing in Flipkart – a renowned e-commerce platform – are a testament to this ongoing evolution.

The innovative strategies have consolidated WMT's position within the turbulent retail market, enabling it to remain resilient and competitive in an ever-changing industry landscape. WMT ensures its sustainability and competitiveness in this evolving ecosystem by continually adapting and initiating changes.

The retail giant experienced increased customer footfall and elevated spending throughout the third quarter, alongside improvements in operating margin and cash flow. These constructive developments in WMT’s performance indicate ample liquidity to invest in growth and reinforce its dominating market presence.

As WMT approaches the holiday season with substantial customer traffic, it stands poised to generate profitable returns. For the quarter ending January 2024, its revenue is expected to increase 3.9% year-over-year to $169.09 billion, while EPS is anticipated to reach $1.64. Further enhancing its appeal, the company currently offers a dividend yield of 1.49%, making its stock a more attractive option to potential investors.

Wall Street analysts expect the stock to reach $180.79 in the next 12 months, indicating a potential upside of about 18%. The price target ranges from a low of $163 to a high of $210.

Etsy, Inc. (ETSY)

Esteemed as an online destination for unique handcrafted and vintage goods, ETSY is the perfect marketplace for customers searching for original gift ideas, especially during the active winter holiday season. The extensive assortment of products on ETSY – encompassing everything from jewelry and apparel to toys and home décor – caters to its impressive 97.3 million active users through 8.8 million dynamic sellers.

Operating under a distinctive business model that leverages network effects and switching costs generates intrigue. However, sustained growth is crucial in maintaining investor enthusiasm. Despite firmly standing by its unique market position within a vast potential landscape, ETSY's obstacles in augmenting gross merchandise sales (GMS) post-pandemic suggest a potential limitation in product demand.

For the fiscal fourth quarter ending December, its revenue and EPS are expected to increase 1.8% and 17.1% year-over-year to $821.75 million and $1.34, respectively.

With a focus on unique gifts and crafts, ETSY is well-positioned to experience significant stock elevation during the seasonal gifting period, complimented by the ongoing market recuperation and declining inflation trends.