Is Tesla (TSLA) a Defensive Stock Using the Graham Method?

Tesla is currently trading at $253.12 per share and has a Graham number of $33.63, which implies that it is 652.7% above its fair value. We calculate the Graham number as follows:

√(22.5 * 5 year average earnings per share * book value per share) = √(22.5 * 0.68 * 16.109) = 33.63

The Graham number is one of seven factors that Graham enumerates in Chapter 14 of The Intelligent Investor for determining whether a stock offers a margin of safety. Rather than use the Graham number by itself, its best to consider it alongside the following fundamental metrics:

Sales Revenue Should Be No Less Than $500 million

For Tesla, average sales revenue over the last 6 years has been $40.15 Billion, so in the context of the Graham analysis the stock has impressive sales revenue. Originally the threshold was $100 million, but since the book was published in the 1970s it's necessary to adjust the figure for inflation.

Current Assets Should Be at Least Twice Current Liabilities

We calculate Tesla's current ratio by dividing its total current assets of $40.92 Billion by its total current liabilities of $26.71 Billion. Current assets refer to company assets that can be transferred into cash within one year, such as accounts receivable, inventory, and liquid financial instruments. Current liabilities, on the other hand, refer to those that will come due within one year. Tesla’s current assets outweigh its current liabilities by a factor of 1.5 only.

The Company’s Long-term Debt Should Not Exceed its Net Current Assets

This means that its ratio of debt to net current assets should be 1 or less. Since Tesla’s debt ratio is 0.4, the company has too much debt. We calculate Tesla’s debt to net current assets ratio by dividing its total long term of debt of $1.6 Billion by its current assets minus total liabilities of $36.44 Billion.

The Stock Should Have a Positive Level of Retained Earnings Over Several Years

Tesla had negative retained earnings in 2017, 2018, and 2019 with an average of $-1430842384.6153846. Retained earnings are the sum of the current and previous reporting periods' net asset amounts, minus all dividend payments. It's a similar metric to free cash flow, with the difference that retained earnings are accounted for on an accrual basis.

There Should Be a Record of Uninterrupted Dividend Payments Over the Last 20 Years

We have no record of Tesla offering a regular dividend within the last twenty years.

A Minimum Increase of at Least One-third in Earnings per Share (EPS) Over the Past 10 Years

There are only 8 years of EPS data available on Tesla, which is short of the required 10, but it's still worthwhile to consider its EPS trend over the available period. First, we will average out its EPS for 2015 and 2016 which were $-6.93 and $-4.68 respectively. This gives us an average of $-5.80 for the period of 2015 to 2016. Next, we compare this value with the average EPS reported in 2021 and 2022, which were $1.63 and $3.62, for an average of $2.62. Now we see that Tesla's EPS growth was 145.17% during this period, which satisfies Ben Graham's requirement for growth.

Tesla does not have the profile of a defensive stock according to Benjamin Graham's criteria because in addition to trading far above its fair value, it has:

  • impressive sales revenue
  • just enough current assets to cover current liabilities
  • too much debt
  • negative retained earnings in 2017, 2018, and 2019
  • no dividend record
  • EPS growth in excess of Graham's requirements
The above analysis is intended for educational purposes only and was performed on the basis of publicly available data. It is not to be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security. Any buy, sell, or other recommendations mentioned in the article are direct quotations of consensus recommendations from the analysts covering the stock, and do not represent the opinions of Market Inference or its writers. Past performance, accounting data, and inferences about market position and corporate valuation are not reliable indicators of future price movements. Market Inference does not provide financial advice. Investors should conduct their own review and analysis of any company of interest before making an investment decision.