Nikola loses half as much as expected as Powersports unit dropped

Startup electric truck maker Nikola Corp. (NASDAQ: NKLA) reported a Q4 loss half of what analysts expected. It also has canceled its Powersports business to focus solely on battery-electric and hydrogen-powered fuel cell Class 8 trucks.

Nikola lost $146.8 million, or 17 cents a diluted share, in Q4 compared to a proforma loss of $28 million, or 9 cents, in the October-December period of 2019. 

Analyst consensus was for a loss of 34 cents per share. Nikola reported no revenue for the quarter. 

For the full year, Nikola lost $384.3 million, or 62 cents a diluted share, compared to a proforma loss of $88.7 million, or 32 cents, in 2019.

Nikola became a public company in June 2020 following a reverse merger with special purpose acquisition company VectoIQ Acquisition Corp.

Late 2021 production curtailed

Nikola expects to produce 50 to 100 battery-electric Tre models and generate its first meaningful revenue in the fourth quarter of 2021, Chief Financial Officer Kim Brady told analysts on the company’s earnings call after the market closed Thursday.

Production is being curtailed because of shortages of battery cells and semiconductors because of the COVID pandemic, CEO Mark Russell said. Work restrictions in Germany where the Tre is in prototype production also have slowed progress. Four of the first five Tre prototypes are in the U.S. for testing and validation. 

Potential customers could be invited to ride programs by the middle of the year, Russell said. But he declined to say how many Tres have been ordered. Nikola wants to lock in one or two fleets that will get the first trucks and “share a little bit of risk with us,” Russell said.

That is the approach Nikola took with Anheuser-Busch (NYSE: BUD), which will get the first Tre fuel cell trucks in early 2022 for testing.

Milton’s prevarications

Separately, former Executive Chairman Trevor Milton made at least nine inaccurate statements as alleged by short seller Hindenburg Research, according to Nikola’s 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

The company said SEC and U.S. Department of Justice investigations are ongoing. Civil or criminal charges are possible, Nikola said. Milton, Russell and Brady were among company officials subpoenaed by the federal court for the Southern District of New York in September.

“We have incurred significant expenses as a result of the regulatory and legal matters relating to the Hindenburg article,” Nikola said in the SEC filing. “The total cost associated with these matters will depend on many factors, including the duration of these matters and any related finding.”

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