No one said building the natural gas highway would be easy, but investors in Clean Energy Fuels
Power of price
Earnings have yet to reflect the company's aggressive build out plans, but they do present a snapshot of a company having a tough time generating profit. Clean Energy's first-quarter loss, including compensation charges, was the largest in nearly three years. The $31.9 million loss adds up to make for one of the company's worst trailing-12-month performances in years:
Sources: Morningstar and Clean Energy Fuels quarterly report.
This comes in spite of the company's ability to control its pump prices rather effectively relative to the raw cost of natural gas. Clean Energy delivered 43.7 million gallons in the first quarter, a 23% improvement over the year-ago quarter. However, that extra volume amounted to only a 13% boost to revenue and offered no benefit at all to the bottom line. Still, the fact that gross profit has avoided steeper declines in light of the nat-gas price crash of the past year is nothing to sneeze at:
Clean Energy has a way to go before the promise of a natural gas highway becomes more than a source of capital expenditures. There should be 31 more fueling stations up and running by the second quarter, and a further 39 by year's end. Add that to 50 new stations already up and running for the company's trash-hauling partners, and the company's increased reach should be readily apparent by its next earnings release, with a more complete picture sure to emerge by year's end.
Clean Energy CEO Andrew Littlefair also shone a bit of light on his company's partnership with Navistar
Now that longtime nat-gas engine conversion partners Cummins
Foolish final thoughts
Clean Energy has a lot of irons in the fire at the moment, but few are ready to be cooled into their final forms. There are bound to be big changes along the way, and a number of shareholders seem decidedly nonplussed at the idea of waiting, as the company's stock just took a big hit thanks to its latest report. The nat-gas industry could be a great investment for investors, but there are plenty of great energy buys right now. If you'd like to find out about one under-the-radar energy opportunity with huge potential, get immediate access to The Motley Fool's free report on "The Only Energy Stock You'll Ever Need." Don't wait: Claim your free report now.