Jim Spellman; Pool / Getty Images
- Tesla stock has plunged about 67% from its peak in November 2021.
- Michael Burry of “The Big Short” fame warned it could plunge 80% or 90% at the time.
- The investor repeatedly warned Tesla shares were in a bubble and destined to crash.
Michael Burry, the prescient investor of “The Big Short” fame, must be feeling vindicated about his downbeat Tesla call.
The stock price of Elon Musk’s automaker has nosedived 67% from its peak in November 2021, slashing its market capitalization from above $1.2 trillion to below $440 billion as of Tuesday’s close.
Burry declared Tesla shares were in a bubble more than two years ago, and has repeatedly warned they would suffer a devastating crash.
The Scion Asset Management chief first revealed he was betting against the electric-vehicle company in December 2020, describing its stock price as “ridiculous.”
Tesla shares soared more than 700% in 2020 and surged in early 2021, a rise fueled by rock-bottom interest rates, zero-commission trading apps, and pandemic-era fiscal and monetary stimulus. Other factors were a boom in people playing the stock market while stuck at home, and a social-media frenzy around certain stocks.
“Well, my last Big Short got bigger and bigger and BIGGER too,” Burry tweeted in January 2021, referring to his famous bet against the mid-2000s housing bubble. “Enjoy it while it lasts.”
After bemoaning what he saw as reckless speculation during the GameStop saga, Burry said in February 2021 that a 90% plunge in Tesla’s stock price wouldn’t send shockwaves through the stock market. Instead, it “would trigger the end of an era for a certain type of investing,” he suggested.
In a follow-up tweet, he compared the hype around Tesla to the excitement during the dot-com and housing bubbles. The frenzy around Musk’s company was “remarkably similar to 1999 and 2006,” he said.
In further tweets, Burry explained why he believed Tesla was hugely overvalued, compared with its rivals. He pointed to its meager sales and slim profits, and described its battery technology as “inferior.”
Burry put his money where his mouth is by purchasing bearish put options against Tesla stock in the first quarter of 2021, and ramping up his bet in the second quarter. However, he exited the position over the next three months.
Still, the money manager doubled down on his criticism of Tesla in November 2021, when the stock hit a record high.
“Can $TSLA fall 80, 90%?” he tweeted. “After 2000, many high flyers did. $AMZN fell 95% 2 decades ago, changed its whole biz, and thrived much later.”
The Scion chief also pointed to Musk’s stock sales at the time as evidence that the Tesla CEO knew his company was overvalued. “Burry is a broken clock,” Musk fired back.
The investor took aim at Tesla again in April this year, after Netflix stock plunged on the back of fears that its subscriber growth was slowing down. “The competition came for Netflix, just like the competition is coming for Tesla,” Burry tweeted.
He returned to his punching bag in September, when Tesla stock was trading at more than double its current level.
“If I am tweeting this you can bet I am not short it,” he tweeted. “But I should be.”
Tesla has shed two-thirds of its market value for several reasons, including fears that Musk’s Twitter takeover has become a costly distraction. Other factors are a wider exodus from growth stocks in the face of inflation and soaring interest rates, and concerns about demand waning if a recession takes hold.
It’s worth noting that the stock more than doubled between December 2020, when Burry announced he was short, and its peak in November 2021. However, it’s now given up all of those gains and more, meaning his call is looking prophetic — at least for now.