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Ballard – Prospects better than current market valuation

By Sven Jösting

April 11, 2024

Image titel: The FCmove®-HD+ from Ballard – a medium-weight FC energy module of the next generation for use in emissions-free drive applications

Sources: Ballard

Ballard – Prospects better than current market valuation

The share price of Ballard Power is at an all-time low. The published figures for the fourth quarter of 2023 and the entire year 2023 paint a contradictory picture. The future prospects outlined by the board, however, give cause for optimism. Turnover rose in the fourth quarter to 46.8 million USD – an increase of 132 percent compared to the same quarter previous year. Order intake in the fourth quarter amounted to an impressive 64.7 million USD, and the orders on hand (backlog) decreased slightly by three percent to 130.5 million USD, as Ballard received more orders to execute (deliver). However, the orders on hand fell by 21.7 million USD, as there were delays with one customer. This order has not been lost, but cannot yet be counted.

Total turnover in 2023 lay at 102.4 million USD, so the bottom line for the year as a whole was a loss of 0.48 USD per share. These are, however, all snapshots that obscure the company’s prospects, since important markets for fuel cells are only at the beginning of a long phase of strong growth. In the USA, Ballard is working on the construction of a new production facility, as recently announced. And in Texas: There, 20,000 FC stacks, to start, are to be produced per year as well as the MEAs. Investment volume: 160 million USD, and subsidies amounting to 40 million USD are beckoning. Do you build such a plant if you don’t believe in the future of your own technology and its market? By no means.

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FC buses really getting rolling

Impressive is the development in deliveries and incoming orders for FC modules for buses. An example: The bus manufacturer Solaris began its collaboration with Ballard in year 2013 with the purchase of two modules. In the following ten years, Solaris ordered 213 modules. In 2023 alone, it was already 365 modules. According to Ballard, this is just the beginning of a real wave of orders. Similar seems to be the case with cooperation partner for many years NFI: 141 modules in year 2023, which should only be the small beginning of the possible order volume, was the commentary.

NFI unites various bus brands under one roof such as New Flyer (70 percent market share for transit buses in the USA) but also Alexander Dennis (double deckers) and MCI. The annual production amounts to 8,000 buses. The partnership with Ballard has now been strengthened and already 100 FC modules ordered, to be delivered by 2024.

By year 2037, there are to be 650,000 buses globally, according to Information Trends, that will drive with hydrogen. In 2022, it was just about 4,000. Price parity for battery-electric and hydrogen-powered buses should be reached by 2030. Then, there should also be enough H2 stations and the price of hydrogen should be at parity with the price of diesel. Ballard is the clear market leader today and could remain so.

China – the giant awakens

The joint venture with Weichai for the production of FC modules for trucks and buses has still not really got going. Regulatory conditions and support programs as well as initiatives by individual provinces make Ballard confident that things will really get going soon. There, 20,000 complete FC systems (power range from 50 to 200 kW) per year can be built. That corresponds to an annual capacity of 2 GW in FC power. In year 2023, in China, 7,500 FC vehicles were sold – altogether 7,300 FC buses and 13,700 FC trucks. Through special support measures by the province Shandong (where the production is located), the JV will finally get started in 2024.

From the United Kingdom, Ballard has reported an order for 15 MW FC capacity. It entails 150 FCmove modules for an unnamed customer with which a letter of intent for another 296 FCmove modules with delivery by March 2026 exists. It involves off-grid electricity generation from renewable energies. At the same time, Ballard has reported the successful completion of test series for FC backup systems for data centers of Caterpillar and Microsoft. The last could be the basis for major orders.

Has the share price bottomed out?

The share price increase from 1 to 2 USD US-$ (2018 to 2020) to over 40 USD at the end of 2021 and the subsequent decline in the price to currently around 2.70 USD should now lead to a sustained upswing again. This describes the entire H2 ecosystem on the stock exchange: It starts with technological developments that lead to expectations on the stock market, which is reflected in the sharp rise in the share prices of listed companies in the sector.

This was the case at the end of 2021. Then, it came little by little to sharp falls in share prices, related to increasing disillusionment among investors. In accordance with to the Gartner hype cycle, the FC and H2 sector is now entering a long-term upward trend, as the markets are gaining momentum. With hydrogen, this entails production, transport, uses, markets, and much more. It is clear that this is a disruptive new technology and industry.

Combining this analysis with the long-term Elliott wave chart results in a picture in which the Ballard share is now bottoming out (a current sell-off as the end of the downward spiral), just at a time when investors almost no longer want to believe in the company’s success, which is expressed in the very low share price and the market valuation of about 0.8 billion USD with, at the same time, 751 million USD in the bank. Today we have real figures, if you only look at the more than 1,680 buses that drive with Ballard technology. The hydrogen costs per 100 km are sinking massively. The modules are also becoming increasingly competitive thanks to cost-cutting programs and material optimizations – also in comparison to battery-electric and diesel-powered buses.

If the cost of diesel fuel is on average 240 USD per day and battery-electric is 16 USD for electricity per day, then the fuel cell (hydrogen) is in between at on average 85 USD per day. The charging times of a battery-electric bus must also be taken into account, however, whereas vehicles can be refueled in just a few minutes with hydrogen or diesel. Especially for certain applications (with long distances, hilly terrain, weather influences), the hydrogen bus is superior to the battery-electric bus.

In addition, hydrogen is becoming increasingly cheaper. Whereas the average price per kg has been still around 10 euros up to now, an average of 6.48 EUR should be feasible in one to two years, in two to three years 3 to 5 EUR per kg, and in 10 to 15 years, so they say, it could even be as little as 1 to 2 USD per kg. The total cost of ownership for the hydrogen bus will fall massively, and diesel will need to be replaced.

Ballard is calmly focusing on the scaling of its technologies and the imminent ramp-up of important sectors such as heavy transportation. Already in the current year 2024, incoming orders for FC modules for buses are set to rise sharply, where the turnover is expected to be split 30 to 70 percent between the first and second half of the year. Order intake will have an impact on the share price, and the next quarterly figures less so.

Summary: Ballard is very well positioned in terms of its finances. With over 750 million USD liquidity, the company will be able to manage its future growth (expansion of existing capacities, geographical expansion) very well from its own resources. Key markets such as FC buses and trucks are in the starting blocks and will ensure very high growth for the company in the long term. That this all is taking longer than expected is normal for the development of a new market. The year of the actual breakthrough (profit zone) will be 2025/26, as the most important framework conditions (including availability of H2 infrastructure) will be created and the regulation as well as support programs worldwide (USA, EU and Asia) will take full effect in a positive sense. Ballard is likely to be one of the winners of this development. The year 2024 will be characterized by rising order intake. Buy and leave alone. Investment horizon: at least two to three years.

Disclaimer

Each investor must always be aware of their own risk when investing in shares and should consider a sensible risk diversification. The FC companies and shares mentioned here are small and mid cap, i.e. they are not standard stocks and their volatility is also much higher. This report is not meant to be viewed as purchase recommendations, and the author holds no liability for your actions. All information is based on publicly available sources and, as far as assessment is concerned, represents exclusively the personal opinion of the author, who focuses on medium- and long-term valuation and not on short-term profit. The author may be in possession of the shares presented here.

Author: Sven Jösting, written March 15th, 2024

 

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