What the Headlines about Tesla, Snap, and Twitter “Earnings” Should Have Said

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Wolf Richter wolfstreet.com, www.amazon.com/author/wolfrichter

How can the media be so gullible – and pliable? I don’t know either.

When Snap reported “earnings” this week – in quotes because it was its biggest loss ever – media headlines were euphoric, from TechCrunch (“Snap shares skyrocket on first earnings beat with revived user growth”) to The Wall Street Journal (“Snap Climbs Back Above IPO Price After ‘Shocker’ Earnings”).
The theory was that Snap had reported “better-than-expected earnings.” Thanks to these headlines, over February 7 and 8, Snap shares skyrocketed 48% to $20.75, though they have fallen off somewhat since then.
So here are some modest suggestions as to what the headlines should have been, based on Snap’s “earnings” report:
Snap losses surge 106% to $350 million in Q4, and 570% to $3.4 billion for the year, the most ever.
Snap lost more money than it generates in revenues; what is it doing with all this money?
Snap burned $820 million in cash in 2017, but still sits on $2 billion from investors and can keep going at this cash-burn rate through 2019, so no problem.
Snap Q4 loss soars to $350 million, on $286 million in revenues. Stop and think about that for a moment.
Losses are ballooning faster than revenues, and from a larger base, which is the road to financial perdition, but no problem for analysts.
Twitter also reported earnings this week, and the media headlines showered it with love, from The New York Times (“Twitter Has Good News for Once: Its First Quarterly Profit”) to CNBC (“Twitter rockets more than 20 percent after the company reports first-ever net profit”).
Twitter’s shares jumped 27% on the announcement, after they’d already soared 60% over the past year on takeover hype that never materializes but keeps getting trotted out time and again to pump up shares. Since the spike following the earnings announcement, shares have declined 10%.
So here are some suggestions for headlines to describe Twitter’s situation:
Twitter 2017 revenues shrink 3.4%, Q4 revenues inch up 2%, as company embarks on Cost-Cutting as strategy
Twitter makes $91 million in Q4 profit after gutting R&D and sales and marketing expenses, which might explain revenue stagnation. But still loses $457 million for the year.
Twitter cuts $68 million from R&D and $71 million from sales and marketing expenses in Q4, trying to shrink itself to growth. Good luck.
Even the ceaseless promos from President Trump and the media circus around his Twitter actions fail to boost Twitter’s revenues.
No other company has ever gotten this much constant and free promo from any White House, but Twitter still can’t make it work.
Tesla’s earnings report late Wednesday triggered more mixed and somewhat impatient headlines, as it is becoming increasingly difficult, even for the fawning media, to willingly and blindly fall prey to Tesla’s hype and broken promises.
So these mixed headlines ranged from The Street (“Tesla’s Earnings Report Was Remarkably Drama-Free, by Its Standards”) to CNBC (“Tesla shares fall as Wall Street doubts the slowing cash burn is for real”).
Before the “earnings” report, Tesla shares traded at $345, giving it an inexplicable market capitalization of $58 billion. Shares have since fallen about 10% to $309. So here are some suggestions, based on Tesla’s “earnings” report, for headlines that are less mixed:
Tesla loses $675 million, the most ever, in Q4, and nearly $2 billion for the year, also the most ever.
Tesla has no clue when or if its Holy-Grail $36,000 Model 3 will ever be mass-produced.
Tesla would lose so much money on its Holy-Grail $36,000 Model 3 that it cannot afford to mass-produce it, if it actually could mass-produce it.
Tesla shows “slowing cash” burn caused by its failure to mass-produce Holy-Grail max-cash-burning $36,000-Model 3.
Tesla cut capital expenditures by $223 million from guidance to show slowing cash burn, just when it should invest to get production going.
Tesla’s global market share is an invisible 0.1%. Why is its market cap $58 billion?
Tesla now ominously “targets” rather than “forecasts” a production rate of its Holy-Grail Model 3 of “2,500 by the end of Q1 and 5,000 by the end of Q2,” nearly a year behind prior hype, and might never get there.
Tesla is spooking people with it wishy-washy backtracking on prior promises. The production “forecast” has now been demoted to “levels we are focused on hitting.” So these are no longer “forecasts.” They’re now elusive goals. The true Holy Grail.
It adds even more ominously that “our prior experience on the Model 3 ramp has demonstrated the difficulty of accurately forecasting specific production rates at specific points in time.” OK, all prior statements are out the window.
So the most appropriate generic headline might have been best:
Nothing Tesla says can be believed.
There is no telling when Tesla’s nonsense will finally hit its shares as investors flee from this endless sea of fake promises. But for now, investors still cling to the magic.
For US consumers, it was one gigantic party. But wait… The State of the American Debt Slaves

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