A market report recently published by news agency Bloomberg concludes we’re well on our way to a hydrogen revolution. I’d call it a megatrend. The report’s authors expect USD 2.5 trillion, that is, USD 2,500 billion, will pour into the hydrogen and fuel cell sector by 2050. The International Energy Agency agrees. Between 2018 and 2020, an estimated USD 1.5 billion per year went into developing the market, a figure said to climb to USD 38 billion by 2040. By 2050, investments will reportedly grow to USD 181 billion – again, per year. All these forecasts are based on targets already set by countries, global organizations and companies themselves.
Ballard [Nasdaq: BLDP] is quietly moving forward with forging new alliances around the world. Or, more specifically, the company is building prototypes that are sure to lead to joint ventures and partnerships to commercialize stacks and modules and components for parts suppliers. I previously covered Ballard’s business relationship with Mahle. Now, Ballard has teamed up with compressor manufacturer Chart Industries, as well as Linamar, a Canadian automotive supplier with sales of USD 7.5 billion and over 26,000 employees. The aim of Ballard’s partnership with Linamar is to develop fuel cell powertrains for light commercial vehicles weighing up to 5 tons and for SUVs, and maybe other kinds of passenger cars in the future. Ballard might even consider forming a joint venture with a company such as Honeywell, to which the fuel cell maker sold its former subsidiary Protonex’ fuel cell drone program – but not before indicating plans for some type of future collaboration.
Investment bank J. P. Morgan’s analyst meeting with KR Sridhar, Bloom Energy’s chief executive, on May 26 revealed bright prospects for the company. When one analyst asked by how much Bloom wants to grow in the near future – if it aims for a rate of 20 percent to 25 percent annually – Sridhar replied the target is rather 30 percent a year over a long period of time. He based his assessment on an analysis of the company’s advanced technology, IP portfolio, markets and applications, as well as its competitive position, expertise and experience.
A few months ago, Plug Power [Nasdaq: PLUG] was forced to revise several of its previously published financial statements. While the accounting errors were not severe enough to have a material impact on the statements, they resulted in a USD 62.9 million decrease in R&D costs in the years 2018 to 2020 and a corresponding rise in cost revenue. Furthermore, non-cash charges, including charges associated with warrants Plug granted to Amazon and Walmart, exceeded USD 400 million. That’s pretty notable. Do these charges have anything to do with Plug’s relatively high amount of short interest, which comes to over 50 million shares? Could Amazon and Walmart have exercised warrants? Or have they now shorted stock to shore up their unrealized gains running into the billions of dollars?
It seems like Nikola Motors [Nasdaq: NKLA] was able to stop the bleeding of the past few months. The stock is rising again. Up to 30 million shares are now traded each day, a comparatively high volume for the company. The new-found optimism among investors seems to stem from reports about Nikola’s recent progress in meeting its targets. Construction of the Arizona factory is well underway. Then there are new production facilities being built in Ulm, Germany. And another boost for the stock came when competitor Daimler Truck announced its intention to have 5,000 hydrogen-fueled heavy-duty vehicles on the road over the next few years, with business partner Shell providing the fueling infrastructure. Sounds a lot like Nikola’s business model, the difference being that Nikola will produce its own hydrogen, and be able to keep the revenue, instead of outsourcing the task to another company.
Like all hydrogen and fuel cell stocks, Weichai Power’s has come under pressure since February. That doesn’t change the business’s bright prospects. Weichai [2338:HK] is turning a profit and is expanding its operations through joint ventures and strategic acquisitions. One example of this is Weichai’s recent purchase of a 45-percent ownership stake in Kion, the world’s second-largest forklift truck manufacturer. The deal, valued at EUR 3.5 billion, might even lead to the deployment of hydrogen and fuel cell systems in Kion’s next-generation forklift trucks. Like Bosch, Weichai owns part of CERUS. It also has an around 15-percent stake in Ballard Power, with which it runs a stack factory in China (a 51/49 partnership).
Nowadays, Tesla [Nasdaq: TSLA] is largely making headlines not for of its financials but for the tweets of its charismatic chief executive, Elon Musk. His thoughts on cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and doge coin, which, depending on the time of day, he says are a really good or a really bad deal, can dominate whole news cycles. Someone recently brought up the huge amounts of energy needed to mine them. As it turns out, the process uses non-renewable sources of energy, which could end up reflecting badly on the image of battery-electric cars as well. In response, Musk said he will rethink his position on bitcoin, which helped cause the cryptocurrency’s price to plunge from over USD 60,000 to USD 30,000. One might wonder what his behavior did to Tesla’s own USD 1.5 billion bitcoin investment.
Burckhardt Compression, formerly a subsidiary of Swiss engineering group Sulzer, could become the next stock to pique the interest of investors. The world’s foremost manufacturer of piston compressors, Burckhardt [SIX: BCHN] is increasingly producing equipment that is later used in hydrogen production or transport, as in gas networks delivering hydrogen blends or in electrolyzers, providing the company with new and huge opportunities for growth. Burckhardt is expected to generate CHF 620 million to CHF 650 million in revenue this fiscal year. Its performance last year had already resulted in earnings of CHF 13 a share, including CHF 6.5 in dividend payouts. In its annual report, Burckhardt noted that 2020 saw a “substantial increase” in demand for hydrogen-related components in the transportation and energy sectors.
Driven in part by the recent decarbonization aims of multiple countries and businesses around the world, there is now pressure on every stakeholder in the sector to establish a global hydrogen economy as fast as possible. That much was clear to those attending German Handelsblatt magazine’s online Hydrogen Summit on May 26 and 27. An oft-discussed issue also brought up at the summit was the color of future hydrogen supplies. In response, Wolfgang Büchele, who was Linde’s chief executive from 2014 to 2016, said, roughly, that the color of the gas – be it green, blue or gray – was not nearly as important as the speed at which a steady supply of hydrogen could become a reality.
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.