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Plug Power – Price jumps with many questions

By Sven Jösting

April 18, 2024

Image titel: Hydrogen Fiction

Sources: KI-CC-Correct-Concetion

Plug Power – Price jumps with many questions

The Plug share price fell quickly to under 3 USD (2.50 USD at low) and then rose again to over 4 USD. At a price of less than 3 USD, it was possible to build up excellent trading positions (see H2-international Feb. 2024). Is there now a turnaround in the price trend or was this just a brief flare-up before the downward trend continues? Or will there even be an upward trend reversal?

There is a great opportunity for Plug Power to receive a credit (loan) totaling 1.6 billion USD from the US Department of Energy (DOE) as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. This is to come in the third quarter, although there are also rumors that it could be approved much earlier, but I won’t take part in this speculation. In this ideal scenario Plug will then have sufficient capital to establish and expand several production facilities, for example in Tennessee and New York, and start production there. The stock market will value this – if it happens – very positively: with higher share prices.

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But a loan is borrowed capital that has to be repaid. What are the conditions? How high is the interest or coupon? What are the repayment arrangements? Will the loan be paid out immediately in full or in installments and with target definitions (milestones)? What is Plug doing with the money? If there is no clarity about this or the loan is not approved in the first place, then the stock market will be miffed or react in disappointment, with the consequence of falling share prices.

Parallel to this is running a share placement program (at-the-market) worth 1 billion USD. Of this, already over 305 million USD, through the placement of 77.4 million shares, have flowed into Plug’s account. This will also correlate positively with the DOE credit: If this is granted, Plug’s share price will – even if possibly only for a short time – climb, and this then enables the perfect placement of shares via ATM in the ramp-up. This money from the ATM program can be used to solve the short-term liquidity problem, since the cash on hand lay at just 135 million USD December 31, 2023.

There are also other possible difficulties, because the US Treasury Department is defining how hydrogen must be produced in order to receive the subsidy of up to 3 USD per kg. Plug is relying very heavily on this funding, but there are still questions: From which location must the regenerative energy come from, in what amount and at what point in time? And at which location must the electrolysis take place? With this are, like in the EU, a series of bureaucratic hurdles – unfortunately.

Disappointing figures

What are these figures: The turnover in fiscal year 2023 amounted to, instead of the expected 1.2 billion USD, only 891 million USD. The loss even amounted to 1.4 billion USD, which corresponds to a minus of 2.30 USD per share. The press conference on the results in March raised more questions than it answered.

For example, the material inventory is to be reduced by a value of 700 million USD via the delivery of finished products to customers. Whereas in 2023 only 400 million USD was invested in this area, no more capital is to flow into here in 2024.

The production at locations such as Georgia, Tennessee and Louisiana is to be ramped up and contribute to an increase in the profit margin. These sites are already capable of producing liquid hydrogen for the company itself and supplying it to customers. The Texas and New York sites will only be continued once the DOE loan has been approved, as otherwise they tie up too much liquidity.

In addition, there is to be price raisings (among others for H2, stacks and electrolyzers) and a cost-cutting program of 75 million USD. Liquid hydrogen is currently still being purchased, which entails losses, but is to be replaced by self-produced hydrogen.

After Plug Power – I reported in detail – established production facilities in the USA and internationally in a variety of ways and thus severely strained liquidity, the planned cost-cutting program amounting to 75 million USD is now to take effect. Whether this amount will be sufficient may be doubted, however, because it seems downright ridiculous in view of the Plug’s liquidity problems and comes much too late. That the company has started to produce liquid hydrogen at several locations and has delivered to customers like Amazon and Walmart is good news for now, but will at first have little influence on the company figures.

With orders for electrolyzers too has Plug scored, but it will be some time before significant sales and thus profits are visible here. That the Saudi sovereign wealth fund Public Investment Fund (PIF) at the end of 2023, with the selling of 5.67 million shares, has completely withdrawn from Plug is not a good sign.

Summary

Words must now be followed by deeds, because all too often very full-bodied forecasts have been made. That Plug will bring partners on board for some projects seems very likely. And also the spin-off (partial sale) of some units is conceivable, if liquidity cannot be adequately presented soon. However, there is currently no need for action. Plug is clearly on my watch list, though, as the company is active in the right markets at the right time. Once the financial problems have been solved, there will possibly also be changes in management, which has lost trust, and Plug will continue on its way.

Over 170 million shares sold short (short interest, status mid-February) are dubious, however, as there is massive speculation against the company or – keywords Amazon and Walmart (warrants) – a form of hedging is being used – no guarantees. All the same, already 10 million shares were short covered in January/February. On the other hand, it is this short interest that can sometimes have a price-driving effect via the covering (short squeeze) when good news is reported. Everything has two sides.

There is still no need for action, however, since the publication of the figures for the first quarter is pending. That various business media in Germany count Plug Power among their top investments in hydrogen befuddles me, though. There are more convincing H2 investments.fa

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

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