Can the Run-Up in Hydrogen Stocks Continue?

Since late July, investor interest in companies making hydrogen fuel and fuel cells has, um, exploded. Most of the interest has centered on a couple of long-time players in the fuel cell business, while a couple of others have done well, just not as spectacularly.

What’s driving the hydrogen fuel cell business is a serious reduction in the cost of splitting water into its constituent elements of hydrogen and oxygen through a process known as electrolysis. As governments and companies work to slow down rising global temperatures, producing hydrogen has to shift from using fossil fuels to power electrolysis to using a renewable energy source like wind or solar.

Making so-called green hydrogen that can then be used to provide transportation fuel for everything from cars to ships could have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Today, hydrogen only supplies about 4% to 5% of global energy, but BloombergNEF estimates that by 2050 nearly 25% of global energy could be supplied by hydrogen provided that governments put some muscle behind developing hydrogen as a fuel.

President-elect Joe Biden, for example, has committed to investing $1.7 trillion in green energy infrastructure. That could speed up a move toward renewable energy power generation. Renewables are expected to account for nearly 90% of new electricity generating capacity put in place this year. That combination of potential speed and sizable investment is driving these stocks.

Here’s a look at four high-flying hydrogen stocks. All have posted big gains since late July. It’s worth noting that competitors include electronics giants Panasonic and Toshiba.

FuelCell Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: FCEL) has been in business for more than 50 years and provides a variety of fuel cell technologies, including hydrogen. The company’s focus is on fuel cells for stationary uses. Last year, FuelCell Energy signed a technology development deal with Exxon.

In a rating change last week, JPMorgan dropped FuelCell stock from Overweight to Neutral, and last month, Oppenheimer reiterated a Hold rating on the stock. Since late July, shares have gained nearly 240%.

The company’s stock closed at $8.55 on Monday but posted a new 52-week high of $11.31 early Tuesday. The 52-week low is $0.48. The price target on the stock is $2.50. The consensus 2021 EPS estimate calls for a loss of $0.20 per share, an improvement of around 50% over the expected loss for 2020.

Bloom Energy Inc. (NYSE: BE), a manufacturer of solid-oxide fuel cells, announced earlier this year that it plans to build hydrogen-supplied fuel cells and an electrolyzer to produce green hydrogen. A short seller attack in September of last year didn’t do any lasting damage because the shares already traded near all-time lows. Last week, Morgan Stanley maintained its Overweight rating on the stock but lowered its price target by a dollar to $21 a share. Bloom’s stock has traded up more than 36% since late July.

The company’s stock closed up more than 18% to $22.08 on Monday but hit a new 52-week high of $23.84 early Tuesday. The 52-week low is $3.00, and the consensus price target is $16.00. The consensus 2021 EPS estimate calls for a loss of $0.02 per share, an improvement of around 95% over the expected loss for 2020.

Plug Power Inc. (NASDAQ: PLUG) recently acquired both a merchant producer of hydrogen and a hydrogen generator maker. A secondary stock offering last week momentarily slowed the soaring share price. Earlier this month, six analysts raised the stock to the equivalent of Buy and raised price targets from a range of $13 to $18 per share to a new range of between $22 and $30 a share. Since late July, Plug Power has added about 215% to its share price.

Plug Power posted a new 52-week high of $27.02 on Monday but then topped it at $28.70 Tuesday morning. The 52-week low is $2.53. The consensus price target on the stock is $22.56, and the consensus estimate for 2021 EPS calls for a loss of $0.24 per share, an improvement of around 23% compared to this year.

Ballard Power Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: BLDP) has been in business for more than 40 years and, like FuelCell Energy, makes a variety of fuel cell products for different markets. The company needs to gain traction in the heavy trucking business. Two of three recent analyst calls put Outperform ratings on the stock, while one analyst downgraded the stock from Buy to Neutral.

Ballard shares traded up nearly 12% on Monday to close at $21.58, in a 52-week range of $5.50 to $21.70. The consensus price target on the stock is $22.64, and analysts are forecasting an earnings improvement next year of around 37% to a net loss per share of $0.12. Since late July the company’s shares are up more than 36%.

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