Stock

Nikola shares collapse as Founder Trevor Milton steps down as Chairman

(Yahoo Finance) – Nikola shares plummeted on Monday after Founder Trevor Milton announced he would be stepping down from his position as Chairman. With Hindenburg Research accusing Nikola of laying an ‘ocean of lies,’ Nikola shares fell over 60% from their all-time highs. Wedbush Managing Director Dan Ives joins The Final Round panel to break down the details.

Video Transcript

– Welcome back to “The Final Round” here on Yahoo Finance. Nikola, the stock has been on a wild ride over the past couple of months today, though, shares off just over 19%. Trevor Milton, the founder and executive chairman stepping down. Now, this comes after a short seller firm Hindenburg Research accused him of making false statements about the company’s technology.

So for more on this and how we should think about this transition, I want to bring in Dan Ives. He’s at Wedbush Analysts. And we also have our very own Ines Ferre joining the conversation. And Dan, let me go to you first.

Your note this morning, it was titled, “Trevor Milton steps down in shocking move, some white knuckles ahead.” What’s your take on this executive shakeup? Should we have more confidence in the company moving forward? Dan, I think you have unmute yourself, star six.

DAN IVES: Yeah, look, definitely a key–

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– It sounds like we’re having some problems here with Dan Ives, so we’re going to try and restore the connection. So as we do that, Ines Ferre, I want to go to you, because you’ve been closely following this story. Obviously this is a huge concern, at least in the short term. We saw that reaction in the share price today with Nikola’s shares off just around 19%. But in terms of where this company is headed, what can you tell us?

INES FERRE: Well, I mean, a lot of what has happened now with Trevor Milton stepping down as executive chairman, really, Cowan put it well in a note, saying that this really takes away the drama for the next couple of weeks or months ahead, because this company has many goals ahead of itself. It is pre-revenue, pre-profit. It’s building a semi plant in Arizona. It’s building a hydrogen fuel infrastructure everywhere.

So it’s basically a lot of lofty goals for the company. And this Hindenburg research report was something that totally smashed their stock. I mean, this stock was at $50– just it closed just above $50 a share after that GM deal was announced. And then the stock tanked after this Hindenburg report with many allegations in that report.

And Nikola had come out with a statement, two statements, the first one, a weaker statement, a very short statement, the next one, a more detailed rebuttal. But it wasn’t what Hindenburg wanted, saying they had asked 52 these questions, and Nikola had only addressed 10 of them.

So hopefully what this does do is it takes away a little bit of that drama, because really, Trevor Milton was the face of this company. He was on Twitter a lot up until the Hindenburg report, replying to users, replying about what the company was doing, making claims about the company, and really defending the company against naysayers.

– You know guys, those Hindenburg allegations, basically, they were saying that this company is a total sham. So to my mind, the question here is, does Nikola– is Nikola like an Uber, which can survive the departure of its founder? Or is it like Theranos, which was sort of cult of personality around the founder that hid a giant fraud for a while? I’m hoping Dan Ives can get back and help us unravel that question.

DAN IVES: Yeah, I’m back here.

– Great, Dan, go for it, man.

DAN IVES: I mean, look, the vision is there for Nikola. It’s the vision that Trevor built. But ultimately, it’s a different company in the near term with him gone. And even though you have the GM partnership and others that have laid the groundwork, the chain of events for investors is a tough pill to swallow.

And to say that Nikola’s story did not change today, I disagree with. I think it changes with Trevor out. And now for them, it’s about execution going forward, and that’s the only thing they can do is just execute sealed deliveries. Bosch and GM appear committed, which is key. And for them it’s about really executing on the vision.

– So Dan, I’m going to follow up on that if I could. So I mean, Hindenburg, and we should point out that Hindenburg, assuming they had the shore in place when they published the report, which of course they did, they’ve already accomplished one of their goals, which is to like make a lot of money on the stock tanking. So it’s not– I mean, they have a vested interest in this as well.

But Dan, to one of their essential and central points, do you think that technology in the systems that Nikola has described actually are as they say they are, or do you think there is some sleight of hand there?

DAN IVES: Look, I can’t really speak to that report. What I could talk to is the vision that they laid out. It’s the semi market. I mean, when you the EV market, it’s really going after semis and the hydrogen fuel cell vision. That’s what GM sort of bet on with the $2 billion bet. Now, in terms of all the issues here for them now, the only thing they can do is to prove it out in terms of execution.

But isn’t it from an investor perspective, the chain of events going back to the GM announcement and everything we’ve seen over the last two weeks, it’s been something that’s been almost a “Twilight Zone” episode for investors. And now for Nikola, its management team its benched, it’s about executing on the vision.

– Hey, Dan, it’s Andy. So a lot of times you see these short reports, I hate to say it, but they’re really kind of binary. I mean, it’s like, thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs down, you die. And these guys, it’s kind of unusual for a company, for someone like Hindenburg to do a report of this magnitude, and for the company to be spotless, for the company to just sail right through it. I mean, usually these are pretty damaging things.

DAN IVES: Yeah and it’s– especially also if you look at the space. I mean, when you look at the EV space, these are not things where right now you could show a model. Remember–

[AUDIO OUT]

–complex for investors in terms of seeing the vision it will come in at zero revenue today. It’s all about the vision. Remember, that’s what investors have bet on. That’s what the partners have bet on. And this obviously comes at a– it’s a fork in the road situation for Nikola. Is this something that changes the direction of the company, where they can’t get to that vision? Or is it just a massive speed bump that they’re able to execute?

And that’s why right now, it’s a huge prove me story. And it’s something where it’s going to be white knuckles, which is why from our perspective, the reason that we’ve had a hold on this, you can’t recommend a story if you don’t have full conviction in the vision and the execution. And that was sort of our yellow light with the story since we’ve initiated.

– And Dan Ives with a neutral rating on the stock, a $45 price target, I believe. We’ll check in with you in a couple of weeks to see, I guess, if we’re in a different space with Nikola and how you’re viewing the company under new leadership but Steve Girsky now at the helm. All right, Dan Ives, thanks so much for calling in for us.

DAN IVES: Thank you.

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