Plug Power (PLUG), a leading maker of hydrogen fuel cells used in forklifts, has seen its stock price rocket to all-time highs recently amid momentum for renewable energy firms. Is PLUG stock a buy right now?
Latham, N.Y.-based Plug Power supplies hydrogen fuel cells mainly for forklifts in large warehouses. Its fuel cells replace conventional batteries in equipment and vehicles powered by electricity. Plug Power clients include retail giants Amazon (AMZN), Walmart (WMT), Nike (NKE) and Home Depot (HD). PLUG stock went public in 2002.
Fuel cells cause a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen from the air to produce electricity. Hydrogen storage systems can recharge in a matter of minutes instead of the typical several hours for lead-acid batteries.
Currently, most hydrogen comes from fossil fuels, specifically natural gas. The process of extracting it can also be powered by burning natural gas. Water is another source of hydrogen, and wind or solar energy can power the extraction process, resulting in even lower carbon emissions.
Plug Power aims to produce more than half of its hydrogen energy from entirely renewable sources by 2024. It also aims to branch out from forklifts to heavy-duty vehicles to serve ports in the U.S. and Europe, as well as stationary fuel cells to power data centers and distribution hubs.
PLUG Stock Technical Analysis
Shares have been on a wild ride over the last several months. PLUG stock more than quadrupled from the U.S. election to an all-time high of 75.49 on Jan. 26 as investors bet on green-energy policies from a Democratic White House and Congress.
PLUG stock has fallen sharply since then. Shares are not in buy range nor are they currently forming any base patterns.
Plug Power’s relative strength line has come down from its highs in January, but is trending upward again. Its RS Rating is a perfect 99. With a mediocre Composite Rating of 54, Plug Power ranks No. 18 in the Energy-Alternative-Other industry group.
Fund ownership currently stands at 38% as a growing number of funds are buying Plug Power shares. As of December 2020, 545 funds held PLUG stock, up from 405 in September 2020.
Rival FuelCell Energy (FCEL) is No. 2 in the group with has an RS Rating of 99 and Composite Rating of 85.
Plug Power Earnings And Fundamental Analysis
Plug Power’s per-share losses widened to $1.12 from 7 cents in the year-ago quarter, well below forecasts for a loss of 8 cents a share. It posted negative revenue of $316.3 million, down from a gain of $91.7 million in the year-ago quarter and worse than views for $84.9 million.
The big earnings miss was in part due to a sell-off among companies that exercised warrants they held in the stock. A stock warrant is issued directly by the company. When an investor exercises a stock warrant, the shares that fulfill the obligation are not received from another investor (as with options) but directly from the company.
Plug Power had offered warrants to key customers like Amazon and Walmart in exchange for fuel cells they bought. In Q4, Plug Power booked $456 million in costs, the majority being “noncash charges related to the accelerated vesting of a customer’s remaining warrants,” the company said in a statement.
As PLUG stock began soaring last fall, those warrants became more attractive to exercise. Plug Power said its customer warrant program has new been fully expensed.
Plug Power reported record gross billings last year, with $96.3 million in Q4 and $337.4 million for the full year. The company also said it’s on track to deliver on 2021 and 2024 targets. In January, the company raised its outlook for 2021 to $475 million from a prior estimate of $450 million. Looking further ahead, management raised its 2024 gross billings target to $1.7 billion, up 40% from its prior outlook.
Wall Street Upbeat On PLUG Stock
JPMorgan recently upgraded PLUG stock to overweight from neutral while maintaining its price target at 65.
Analyst Paul Coster said in a March 1 note to clients that he expects Plug Power to “inflect into meaningful profitability in 2023-24, but for the time being the stock trades on a multiple of forward sales, which at about 33x, looks richly valued but not unreasonable in the context of valuations across the renewables and EV spaces.”
Right now, PLUG stock appeals to investors looking for the next big thing in renewable energy. Headlines are likely to sustain interest in 2021, Coster said.
Part of the debate will be about the adoption of hydrogen fuel cells among automakers. While Plug Power seeks to expand use of fuel cells to more vehicles, some doubt their practicality in heavy-duty vehicles like semi trucks. Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk has been an outspoken critic of hydrogen fuel cells, calling them unrealistic. But others — like General Motors (GM), Toyota (TM) and Nikola (NKLA) — are eager to embrace hydrogen.
Plug Power’s Partnerships
The company recently announced it was teaming up with South Korean conglomerate SK Group. On Feb. 25, SK Group closed its $1.6 billion investment into a joint venture with Plug Power to expand hydrogen energy in Asia. The joint venture should launch this year.
The partnership will provide hydrogen fuel cell systems, hydrogen fueling stations and electrolyzers to South Korea and other Asian markets.
“Plug Power has been aggressively building out the hydrogen economy in North America, and it is clear that our partner, SK Group, shares the same vision to build out a big hydrogen economy in Asia,” said CEO Andy Marsh in a statement.
The deal comes on the heels of its partnership with French carmaker Renault to develop, build and market electric fuel cell light commercial vehicles.
“We look for at least one additional ‘pedestal’ customer to be introduced (probably in Europe),” Coster said. He also believes the firm will disclose a large stationary storage deployment with a data-center owner in the second quarter of 2021.
“Management has also hinted at additional JVs and partnerships that will enable PLUG to enter additional geographies and end-markets,” he added.
Is PLUG Stock A Buy Now?
JPMorgan estimates the overall market opportunity could exceed $200 billion. Plug Power is raising capital to finance an ambitious buildout plan and forging partnerships with key industry players.
But it has yet to prove that it can achieve profitability. This is perhaps due to the fact that for now it supplies fuel cells for just one vehicle — forklifts. While it has plans to manufacture hydrogen fuel cells for other industries, a wait-and-see approach is probably more prudent.
Bottom line: PLUG stock is not a buy right now as it is trading below its 50-day line with no discernible pattern forming. Shares fell well below their 50-day moving average in late February, following the company’s report of steep negative revenue.
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Follow Adelia Cellini Linecker on Twitter @IBD_Adelia.
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