The highs and lows of hydrogen and fuel cell stocks in recent weeks can be best described as a bumpy ride following a significant and rapid increase in prices. It seems to me that the market has entered a major consolidation phase. Yet this is no reason to lose faith, especially as the wild fluctuations that have been raging since early December 2020 – with some stocks climbing more than 50 percent inside a month – begged a correction. A process which is now in full swing. At the end of the day, it’s the future of the industry that counts and so here I stand by the old stock market maxim: The trend is your friend.
The company Weichai Power, which I’ve so far only mentioned in this column as partnering Ballard, has a revenue around the EUR 20 billion mark and a stock market valuation of the same order. In 2020, a good EUR 1 billion was marked up as profit, with dividends also paid out. Weichai Power has several bus brands to its name and is the nation’s largest diesel engine manufacturer; it has clearly recognized the potential offered by fuel cells in the commercial vehicle sector and, in its own words, is intent on becoming the market leader.
In what is known as a bought deal, an underwriter syndicate co-led by investment bank Raymond James has offered Ballard Power [Nasdaq: BLDP] fresh capital for shares. The offer was so popular, the initial USD 250 million target was quickly raised to USD 402.5 million: In late November 2020, the companies agreed on USD 350 million in stock, with an option on another USD 52.5 million, all selling at USD 19.25 per share. Ballard has since exhausted those resources, though more could be on the way soon.
Fuel cell and hydrogen stocks are riding a wave of popularity as a new megatrend sweeps the market. So far, every single one of these stocks has exceeded expectations. But how long will the love affair between investors and the industry last? Will analysts and shareholders use new methods to evaluate business models, prospects, backlogs, submarkets and revenues, and, above all, the potential for profit? And will the market separate the wheat from the chaff? I’d say yes, that will definitely happen.
Since the beginning of the year, the fuel cell stocks covered in this issue had seen a fast uptrend, which ended with the spread of Covid-19 around the world. Fears over the impact of the disease on the global economy meant some gains were quickly lost. Still, in light of increased news coverage, multiple project announcements and the growing popularity of green hydrogen, it has become clear that hydrogen and fuel cells are entering the mainstream and their breakthrough into the market is approaching rapidly.
Forget the quarterly figures for Ballard Power this year. They are only important to analysts. The CEO already said at the beginning of the year and recently underlined in a Bloomberg interview that this calendar year will be used to build capacity in China (production of the LCS stacks together with Weichai), among other things, to position themselves, to strengthen the central production and R&D location in Vancouver, to expand the workforce and to tackle pilot projects as a basis for orders.
Ballard Power Systems is a pioneer in the fuel cell industry. Since 1983, fuel cells have been developed in the company founded by Geoffrey Ballard in Burnaby near Vancouver. Randy MacEwen has been President & CEO of the Canadian fuel cell manufacturer since 2014. On October 23, 2019, the International Hydrogen Symposium brought him to Hamburg where H2-international seized the opportunity for an interview.
The surprising takeover of the Canadian competitor Hydrogenics will also have a positive impact on Ballard Power’s stock market valuation: Both companies have been frontrunners in FC development for many years. Their activities overlap in rail vehicles and trucks. They are both absolutely tops: Hydrogenics with Alstom and Ballard with CRRC and Siemens. Ballard also has many other activities in the major markets of the future, such as the use of fuel cells in drones.
This remark (“major new customers”) stuck particularly with me, because Ballard – although already on board with many top partners and large companies in research technology – expects further major new customers, according to CEO Randy MacEwen in the telephone conference on the occasion of the figures for the fourth quarter of 2018.
The momentum for the fuel cell is constantly improving with increasing dynamics. Recent co-operations such as those between Bosch and PowerCell, but also positive statements on fuel cells from automobile manufacturers such as Audi are attracting attention. Will China be the driver again, as it was when the batteries were introduced and before that in the field of renewable energies? There, new funding guidelines are about to be introduced, which are intended to favour and strongly promote the fuel cell and the hydrogen infrastructure, while the subsidies for purely battery-operated vehicles will, depending on the radius, be abolished in full or to a large extent.