Today: After a high-profile beef with the New York Times, Tesla's profits come in lower than expected. Also: Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Marissa Mayer shows off new homepage, Apple (AAPL) drags Wall Street down.
Tesla loses more money than expected, but promises profits
After Tesla CEO Elon Musk publicly beefed with the New York Times about the newspaper's review of the Palo Alto company's Model S sedan, the company displayed the importance of the car in its earnings report Wednesday, announcing larger-than-expected losses but promising increasing production of the car will lead to profits.
"We really have very high confidence we will have a profitable first quarter," Musk said in Wednesday's conference call with analysts and media. "That's a pretty big deal. That's an enormous amount of blood, sweat and tears to get there. But we are going to do it. We are really proud of that. We are halfway through the first quarter
Musk had to project confidence about the future after Tesla's earnings report showed failures at the end of 2012. The company lost $90 million, or 79 cents a share, on revenues of $306 million in the final quarter of last year. While those numbers were an improvement on the same quarter in 2011, when Tesla brought in just $50 million in revenue and lost $1.05 a share, analysts and investors had been expecting more rapid improvement from the electric car company.
Analysts were more concerned with other metrics besides profits and revenues for Tesla, however, with most eyes on production of and reservations for the Model S.
After manufacturing just 250 cars in the third quarter, Tesla was looking to ramp up production in the final three months of the year, and managed to do that, ending 2012 with more than 3,100 Model S cars built. However, the company only managed to deliver about 2,400 of the 2,750 cars it built in the fourth quarter, which it attributed to difficulty reaching buyers during the holiday season.
Maxim group analyst Aaron Chew was more concerned about reservations to purchase the car, telling Mercury News reporter Dana Hull before the announcement, "Nothing should matter more than the pace of net reservations. They exited the third quarter with 13,000 reservations. In my view, they need at least 2,500 new reservations for the quarter."
Tesla came up short on Chew's main metric, however, announcing about 15,000 reservations for Model S purchases, meaning about 2,000 came in the fourth quarter.
Still, executives sounded positive and optimistic in the earnings call, possibly happy to talk about something else besides the recent controversy Musk stirred up with the Times, which continued even Wednesday morning with yet another tweet from the famed entrepreneur.
Musk only lightly touched on the controversy in Wednesday's conference call, when asked about the reviewer's contention that the Model S loses power quicker in extreme cold weather.
"It does lose 10 percent of its range in extreme cold. But so do gasoline cars. People forget about that," Musk said.
Investors seemed to focus more on Tesla's continued losses, sending the stock down more than 7.5 percent in after-hours trading, after it fell 1.5 percent to $38.54 in the regular session.
Yahoo shows off new homepage with personalized effects
CEO Marissa Mayer's vision for Yahoo was partially unveiled Wednesday, as the company's new homepage debuted with more text, personalization and social features in a bid to keep the visitors Yahoo still has and attract those who have left.
The new Yahoo homepage has several personalized features that provide users news, weather and more, using more text than previous iterations. The main feed of news items also scrolls continuously down the page and offers more text from within the story.
All of those elements will grow to match the user's interests, Mayer said in her blog post announcing the new features Wednesday.
"Designed to be more intuitive and personal, the new Yahoo experience is all about your interests and preferences," Mayer wrote.
The homepage can be connected to a user's Facebook profile as well, showing friends' birthdays and adding the social network's knowledge of a user's interests to the personalized nature of the Yahoo offering.
"One of the things that people really want to do is share their interests with their friends," Mayer told Bloomberg News in an interview. "We need to have sharing built as a fundamental component."
Mayer also hopes to revamp Yahoo's mobile offerings in her attempt to revive the faltering Internet giant, which may go over better with the tech community, which currently seems to place little emphasis on a site's homepage. Investors also seemed unimpressed, as Yahoo stock fell 1.7 percent to $20.92.
Apple drags Wall Street down, Google's hot streak ends
Yahoo and Tesla were not outliers Wednesday, as Wall Street suffered a down day that saw tech stocks take the brunt of the damage, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq falling the farthest of the three major U.S. indexes at 1.5 percent and the SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies declining 1.9 percent.
Apple, which is the largest component of both indexes, pushed them both down Wednesday, dropping 2.4 percent to $448.85, only the second time it has closed below $450 this month. The Cupertino tech giant may have been hurt by a hiring freeze at Chinese manufacturing partner Foxconn, a move that plays on fears that Apple is cutting back production due to demand issues. A note from UBS analysts pointed the finger a different direction, however, saying that cutbacks at Foxconn likely stemmed from lower demand from other companies, namely Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), which dropped 1.1 percent on the day.
Google (GOOG) declined 1.8 percent to $792.46, falling below the $800 mark it first cracked Tuesday despite receiving a lot of free publicity thanks to a promotion built around its Google Glass project. VMware fell 3.2 percent despite introducing a new product it feels will be a big help for IT professionals, and Facebook fell 1.6 percent as CEO Mark Zuckerberg concentrated on another endeavor.
Silicon Valley tech stocks
Up: Workday, SolarCity
Down: Zynga, Ruckus, Netflix (NFLX), Advanced Micro Devices, VMware, NetApp, Juniper, Apple, Applied Materials, eBay (EBAY), Tesla, Google, Yahoo, Intel (INTC), LinkedIn, Cisco (CSCO), Splunk, SunPower (SPWRA), Facebook, Nvidia, Intuit (INTU), Palo Alto Networks, HP, Oracle (ORCL), Gilead
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Down 49.18, or 1.53 percent, to 3,164.41
The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Down 108.13, or 0.77 percent, to 13,927.54
And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Down 18.99, or 1.24 percent, to 1,511.95
Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.