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January 27, 2021

Tesla disappoints Wall Street despite strong profits

Tesla capped its breakout year with a record profit that still fell short of analysts forecasts, sending its shares lower in after-hours trading.

The electric car maker reported fourth quarter adjusted income of $903 million, excluding special items, more than double its earnings a year ago but short of the $1.1 billion forecast by analysts. Net income was $270 million, well short of the $780 million estimated by Wall Street.

Still the results capped a year of strong growth for the company despite the problems associated with Covid-19 temporarily shutting factories and sparking a global recession that slowed auto sales overall. Revenue was up 31% for the year, and adjusted income was up more than 6,700% from the modest profit Tesla posted in 2019, the automaker's first profitable year. Net income for 2020 was $721 million, compared with a loss of $862 million a year earlier.

Despite the positive results, shares of Tesla fell 6% in after-hours trading soon after the report. Shareholders had enjoyed a 743% rise in the stock price in 2020 and a 25% year-to-date surge through Wednesday's close, making it by far the most valuable automaker in the world. Tesla is worth more than the 10 largest automakers combined, and is now one of the most valuable US companies of any kind.

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