Carvana nirvana? Shorted stock surges 56% as company predicts record profits

On Thursday, online car-retailer Carvana announced an especially rosy outlook (i.e. forecasted record profits) for the second quarter of 2023, and investors responded by driving the company’s stock price up 56% before the market closed. The company closed the day worth $4.58 billion, according to Google Finance data.

The retailer — a popular short — predicted in May that it would report a quarterly profit in Q2. At the time, the company didn’t offer a specific figure. In its latest statement to investors, Cavana said it anticipates an adjusted EBITDA north of $50 million. Wall Street analysts previously forecasted an adjusted loss of $6 million, per Reuters.

Carvana also said on Thursday that expects to report a non-GAAP total gross profit per unit (its profits per car) above $6,000. That’d be a new record for the debt-saddled retailer.

In a prepared statement, Carvana founder and CEO Ernie Garcia said the company’s “persistent focus on driving profitability has resulted in significant savings and efficiencies, and this work will persist as we continue to execute our plan.”

In the background, prices for used cars remain elevated compared to prior (pre-pandemic) norms, even with declines posted since all-time highs reached last year.

In the first quarter of 2023, Carvana’s non-GAAP total gross profit per unit was $4,796, for reference, and its adjusted EBITDA loss came to $24 million. It is not clear at this juncture if the company’s anticipated Q2 2023 adjusted profit will allow Carvana to produce unadjusted profits in the period. Also not clear at this juncture is the revenue base from which the company is generating its improved metrics. For example, despite improved adjusted profitability in the first quarter of this year, Carvana’s revenues declined compared to the year-ago period.

Still, with at least adjusted profits on the horizon, it appears that Carvana has bought itself some relief from some of the pressure its stock has been under; shares of Carvana traded above $50 per share in 2022, before falling to under $4 per share later that year. Carvana closed out regular trading today worth $24.23 per share.

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