What’s next for Tesla? Joining the S&P, says one analyst

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Tesla Inc. “checks all the boxes” except for one important one for inclusion in the S&P 500 index, Macquarie Research said Thursday, boosting the Silicon Valley car maker’s shares on a mixed day for the stock market.

Even that missing part — consistent profitability — will arrive for Tesla TSLA, +0.93%  after the second quarter of 2019, Macquarie analyst Maynard Um wrote in a note.

Tesla surprised markets last month when it reported a third-quarter GAAP and adjusted profit, but several Wall Street analysts have expressed doubts that it will do so in the coming quarters.

In a sweeping interview last week, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk promised Tesla would be cash-flow positive “all quarters going forward” and it was “over the hump” with Model 3 production.

The index’s methodology requires that the sum of the company’s four most recent quarterly earnings as well as its most recent quarter be a positive number.

“While (Tesla) still has to prove it can sustain profitability, we believe the company will achieve this last eligibility requirement driven by steady demand for Model S & X, increasing production to meet Model 3 demand, and potential for meaningful (Zero Emission Vehicle) credit revenue,” Um said.

But even if Tesla succeeds in attaining the profitability requirement, it won’t be a shoo-in: In his note, Um acknowledged that the S&P does not disclose how it decides which stocks to add after all eligibility boxes are checked.

Still, joining the S&P 500 SPX, -0.25%  would unleash a torrent of new money from myriad funds, including pension, mutual and exchange-traded funds, that track the large-cap benchmark or have restrictions on which stocks to add to their holdings.

The index’s 500 constituent companies are considered to be a proxy for the U.S. equity market. The other key benchmark, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.04% is an even more exclusive club, with 30 companies as components.

Twitter Inc. TWTR, -2.31% in June joined the S&P, replacing Monsanto Co., which was being acquired by Bayer AG. BAYN, -1.12%  

Macquarie’s Um said he looked at the 12 stocks most recently added to the S&P and found that while their performance was uneven across the group, those not previously in the S&P Mid Cap MID, -0.42%  before their inclusion in major-league S&P 500 saw an average share price increase of 6.9%, compared with an advance of 0.2% for the S&P 500 on average, on the day of the announcement.

Tesla, which trades on the Nasdaq, is not on the S&P’s indexes, including the S&P SuperComp 1500 SPSUPX, -0.26% a mix of the S&P’s large-, mid-, and small-cap stock indexes.

Um kept his rating on Tesla stock at the equivalent of buy with a $430 price target, among the highest on Wall Street. Analysts on average have a $321 price target on Tesla, which would represent downside of around 9% over Thursday’s share prices.

Tesla shares have gained 13% this year and 15% in the past 12 months, which compares with advances of 5.2% and 6.2% for the S&P and the DJIA this year and of 8.4% and 11% for the past 12 months.