Nikola’s Major Analyst Upgrade Comes With Some Serious Caveats

Nikola Corp. (NASDAQ: NKLA) is one of the blank check winners of 2020, but analysts on Wall Street have been a bit cautious over chasing its valuations. After all, Nikola is a controversial company that effectively has no revenue history. While it is the “Tesla of trucks” to some investors, Elon Musk and Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) might take issue here.

JPMorgan was not the first firm to initiate coverage, but its rating started out as Neutral late in June. The firm said it was very positive on its long-term opportunities but would be more interested if the shares came back down to earth.

Now that Nikola shares have fallen by more than 50% from their peak, and after a five-straight-day dropping pattern, and after a 17.7% retreat to $40.23 on Tuesday, JPMorgan’s Paul Coster has issued an Overweight rating. The firm’s $45 price target may not offer much upside, but it was still more than 10% based on the most recent close.

Remember that no single analyst call, no matter how positive, should ever be the sole basis for buying or selling a stock. In the case of Nikola, note that the price reaction alone already has created a major caveat for long-term investors.

Coster sees an attractive valuation after the recent selling pressure took shares down close to $40. He also warned that its shares could fall even further, as more shares become available to trade. That $45 target is still calling Nikola a story stock, but the current levels also are beginning to look attractive for long-term investors with a favorable risk-reward scenario.

Some potential catalysts coming soon include an announcement of an original equipment manufacturing partnership for its Badger truck, as well as an H2 station deployment plan for the United Kingdom and a more rapid implementation plan for its fuel-cell-powered truck.

One issue to consider for a story stock valuation is that Coster had been using a multiple of about 30 times an expected and discounted 2027 EBITDA, along with an enterprise value. With no history of sales to rely on, it may still be anyone’s guess what the real sales figures and earnings come to. Investors also should consider that it has taken Tesla basically a decade to reach profitability, but now its shares have surged in recent trading sessions.

While investors are excited about that Overweight rating, it was just a day earlier that RBC Capital Markets issued a Sector Perform rating and a $46 price target.

Nikola was indicated up 9% at $43.96 on Wednesday morning before the open, but the stock was last seen up over 24% at $50.20 in active trading. That is already above the price targets issued in the past 24 to 48 hours.

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