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Tesla stock falls after reporting its first profit miss in more than a year

Tesla Inc. reported a sixth-straight quarter of profit and a sales beat late Wednesday, but earnings came in below Wall Street heightened expectations and the stock fell as much as 7% in after-hours trading.

Tesla TSLA, -2.14% said it earned $270 million, or 24 cents a share, in the fourth quarter, compared with earnings of $105 million, or 11 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Adjusted for one-time items, the Silicon Valley car maker earned 80 cents a share.

Revenue rose 46% to $10.74 billion from $7.38 billion a year ago, thanks in part to “substantial growth” in deliveries, the company said.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected adjusted earnings of $1.02 a share on sales of $10.47 billion.

Tesla had topped analyst forecasts every reporting day since October 2019, when it reported a surprise third-quarter 2019 profit against expectations of a loss. The year 2020 marked the first full year of profitability for the company.

The average selling price of its vehicles fell 11% year-on-year as its mix continued to shift to the cheaper Model 3 and Model Y from its luxury Model S and Model X vehicles, the company said in a letter to shareholders.

Tesla also shied away from providing a hard-number sales guidance. The company said it had “simplified our approach to guidance for 2021” in order to focus on long-term goals.

Tesla plans to grow manufacturing capacity “as quickly as possible” and over a “multi-year horizon” expects to hit a 50% average annual growth in vehicle deliveries, its proxy for sales.

“In some years we may grow faster, which we expect to be the case in 2021,” it said.

A growth right at 50% would mean the delivery of about 750,000 vehicles this year, which would compare with slightly below 500,000 cars delivered in 2020, a year marred by factory stoppages and delays due to the pandemic.

The FactSet surveyed analysts expect deliveries around 800,000 vehicles for this year.

The company said it remained on track to start vehicle production at its Germany and Texas factories this year, with in-house battery cells. It is also on track to start selling its commercial truck, the Semi, by the end of the year.

Tesla shares have gained nearly 700% in the past 12 months, compared with gains around 17% for the S&P 500 index SPX, -2.57%.

Earlier this year, the stock went on its longest-ever winning run.

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