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Plug Power Inc: ‘Pardon Our Skepticism’: Lakewood Capital

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Plug Power Inc (NASDAQ:PLUG) shares rallied again this morning in pre-market trading, climbing as much as 5% as investors continue to be awed by the company. However, Lakewood Capital sees nothing worth oohing and aahing over, according to a recent letter to investors, a copy of which was reviewed by ValueWalk. Anthony Bozza calls it “one of the most remarkable stocks” he has ever seen, noting that a year ago, it traded at 15 cents per share and now it trades at around $7 a share—a 45-fold increase (at the time of the letter; as of this writing, shares trade at $3.97).

Putting Plug Power into perspective

The fund manager notes that Plug Power Inc (NASDAQ:PLUG) is so popular that the company’s full-diluted market capitalization is more than $1 billion. Over the last six weeks, the average daily trading volume has passed $500 million. He said this means Plug Power’s average daily trading volume has the same dollar amount as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) in the same time frame.

He notes that half of Plug Power Inc (NASDAQ:PLUG)’s market cap trades hands almost every day. In fact, in several days in March, more than $1 billion worth of volume in Plug Power shares was traded. So he says it’s tempting to ask, “What on earth is going on here?”

Plug Power and the “investment craze du jour”

Bozza says Plug Power Inc (NASDAQ:PLUG) has “been the biggest beneficiary of the investment craze du jour,” which he says is fuel cells. The company makes fuel cell systems for forklifts, but it didn’t even make the fuel cells themselves, some of which are still supplied by Ballard Power Systems Inc. (USA) (NASDAQ:BLDP), until a small acquisition recently.

He noted that in November, Plug Power Inc (NASDAQ:PLUG) said he expected “a blowout number of orders” during the fourth quarter and that they were on track to hit their goal of break-even EBITDA this year. Shares of Plug Power soared after Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) placed an order earlier this year, even though the big box store was already a customer, and Marsh appeared on CNBC.

Plug Power investors “unfazed”

Bozza says investors don’t seem to be fazed by Plug Power Inc (NASDAQ:PLUG)’s 15 consecutive years of operating losses, amounting to more than $20 million. Gross margins have usually been about -50%. Also he said they’re not very concerned that Marsh’s past forecasts have not been reliable.

He said Plug Power Inc (NASDAQ:PLUG) shareholders seem to think that the company “will be one of those rare industrial companies to turn $5 million in PP&E and a R&D budget of $3 million into an opportunity immediately worth greater than a billion dollars.” He says they’re not aware of any industrial company which has done this before. He also notes that the company doesn’t hold any important patents. He goes on to say that even if Plug Power can turn a profit, there’s going to be plenty of competition from current forklift manufacturers like Toyota, which currently has its own fuel cell division.

Air Liquide is holding up Plug Power… for now

Bozza also advises investors to watch out for Air Liquide SA (EPA:AI), which kept Plug Power Inc (NASDAQ:PLUG) alive a year ago by buying $2.5 million worth of convertible preferred stock. The two companies created a joint venture, with Air Liquide originally owning 55% of the venture, although the company raised its stake to 75% last year. He notes that next month, Air Liquide can convert and sell its entire 9.4% stake in Plug Power, which he says “is not going to end well.”

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