The company is about to enter a phase of exponential, long-term growth, is my interpretation of the earnings call on March 14, 2022 regarding the 2021 annual figures and the fourth quarter. Year 2023 should really start off with Ballard reaping the fruits of years of intensive research and development, various pilot projects and building up production capacities. The Canadian company is working on scaling production capacity in the target markets bus, truck, rail and ship. But that doesn’t happen overnight.
Although the price of Weichai Power fell away steadily in recent months, it has bounced back very strongly in recent weeks by more than 35 percent. Weichai, as a leading producer of diesel engines in China, is the perfect counterpart to the American corporation Cummins, which is very aggressively expanding its hydrogen and fuel cell activities, and as such is hedging Weichai’s future strategy. For Cummins, the acquisition of Canadian firm Hydrogenics was its ticket into the world of hydrogen. For Weichai, it was its stake in Ballard Power (probably currently standing at about 15 percent) and the joint production of commercial vehicle stacks in a joint venture (51:49).
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.
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).
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.
Ballard [Nasdaq: BLDP] and Weichai, Ballard partner and major shareholder, announced they are building an LCS factory in China. Past tense, it has probably already been built. Production should begin this year.