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Tesla shares slip as margin worries overshadow record deliveries

FILE PHOTO: A Tesla supercharger is shown at a charging station in Santa Clarita, California

(Reuters) - Tesla Inc shares fell 5% on Monday, dragged down by growing worries about the electric-vehicle maker's profit margins after aggressive price cuts led to only a modest increase in quarterly deliveries.

After slashing prices on its vehicles by as much as 20% in January, Tesla posted record deliveries of 422,875 vehicles in the first quarter but they were up just 4% on the prior quarter.

GRAPHIC - Tesla deliveries growth slows

https://www.reuters.com/graphics/TESLA-DELIVERIES/myvmobdmbvr/chart.png

Several analysts said the figures raised questions about whether more price cuts would be needed this year to achieve CEO Elon Musk's target of 2 million deliveries for 2023.

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"Tesla's price reductions are clearly having the desired effect for now, but there's a limit to how many times prices can be cut," said Sophie Lund-Yates, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"With delivery targets for the year looking slightly tough to achieve, there could yet be further pressure on the group's valuation despite its sharp falls in the last couple of years."

Although Tesla's price war, which was started in January, has put pressure on money-losing EV startups such as Rivian Automotive Inc and Lucid Motors and legacy automakers including Ford Motor Co, it has also raised fears about the company's industry-leading margins.

Bernstein analysts said Tesla "will need to further lower prices this year and/or next year to achieve its volume targets, incrementally pressuring margins."

"We maintain that price cuts have and will undermine industry profitability (including Tesla's), but that incumbents are deep pocketed and not likely to back down," they added.

Tesla shares were trading at $197, having gained 9% last week in the run-up to the deliveries report.

Some analysts, however, pointed out that falling prices of materials used in EVs, especially battery metal lithium, could help lower the cost of production and offset the hit from price cuts.

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)