Battery Maker Sucker Punches Investors

Just when I was starting to think Advanced Battery Technologies (Nasdaq: ABAT  ) had enough cash and a profitable enough operation to stay away from a dilutive stock offering, the company gave an unwanted blow to investors. Last week, the company decided to sell $30 million worth of stock at below the market price and attached warrants. Thanks a lot.

Investors who have been investing in China or even watching these stocks can’t be too surprised. It has become commonplace for Chinese firms to treat U.S. shareholders like dirt, and Advanced Battery Technologies was probably just keeping to the tradition. When I wrote about the company’s solid earnings last month, I warned that although everything looks great, you never know what management is going to do. Last week we found out.

Of course, not everyone saw this as a red flag. Analyst Paul Resnik thinks the company will “make a significant and, in our opinion most likely, accretive acquisition in the near term.” Soothing words, as investors bandage their wounds.

I remember hearing the same thing once before, and it didn’t seem to end well. One of my old holdings, American Oriental Bioengineering (NYSE: AOB  ) , looked like a great growth-through -acquisitions story. But over that time, its stock price has gone from $4.51 to $2.30 as of the close of Friday, as acquisitions never seemed to perform as promised.

Share offerings by competitors A123 Systems (Nasdaq: AONE  ) and Ener1 (Nasdaq: HEV  ) in the past are normal as these new companies grow, develop technology, and build factories. Plus, neither competitor is profitable. If Advanced Battery Technologies was planning to use the money for acquisition, why wouldn’t it use stock for acquisitions? And was the $74.3 million of cash on the balance sheet not enough to acquire whatever company it is looking at?

Despite analysts’ insistence on thinking this was a good offering, I see this as a red flag for another Chinese company that doesn’t care about shareholders. What do you think about Advanced Battery Technologies’ offering? Will the company wow us with growth or are we in for another dive like American Oriental Bioengineering?

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Fool contributor Travis Hoium does not have a position in any company mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.

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  • Report this Comment On December 07, 2010, at 6:04 AM, JPDemers wrote:

    Is it your belief that they diluted the stock just for the hell of it? The CEO himself has a fortune tied up in ABAT shares. Let's wait and see what he does with the cash.

  • Report this Comment On December 07, 2010, at 2:28 PM, dagrandpoobah wrote:

    Even though ABAT shares were diluted by 12% with the sale of the7.4 million shares this is probably a good move because the share sale will bring in 29,600,00 ( 7.4 times their 4$ issuing price ). That 29,600,000 will increase the assets of the company by 17% making the sale worthwhile.

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