Why China Ming Yang Wind Power Group Ltd. Soared 113% in 2013

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis. 

Shares of wind-turbine maker China Ming Yang Wind Power Group  (NYSE: MY  ) clearly had the wind buoying them in 2013, having clocked a massive 113% gains. For a company that's yet to turn in a profit, the rally may seem out of place. Yet, a growing order book, and great-looking prospects in the clean energy space, kept investors hopeful. But will that be enough to propel the stock higher in 2014, or is the rally close to over? Let's find out.

A dismal year
China Ming Yang had a good year in terms of sales. Revenues surged 98% and 22% year over year during the first and third quarters, respectively, only slipping 33% in the second quarter. But those incremental sales failed to convert to profits – Aside from a small $0.7 million profit in Q1, the company turned in losses of $14 million and $11.7 million in Q2 and Q3, respectively.

Administrative, selling, and distribution expenses surged through the year, and Q3 gross margin slumped to 13% from 17.4% a year ago. A shrinking gross margin is a clear sign of management's inefficiency in controlling costs.

Encouraging news
On a more positive note, China Ming Yang signed orders worth 1.04 gigawatts during the first nine months of the year. That's commendable, given that its total order book for 2012 was only 747 megawatts.

Notably, the company is spreading its wings outside China. It struck an agreement with Speranta & Succesul S.A. to develop a 200 MW wind farm in Romania, which reportedly was also the largest Chinese export order for wind-turbine generators to date. In the other big news, China Ming Yang received its first order from India for 150 MW. Investors may not know that it is the first Chinese turbine company to win approval to sell products in India. Part of these two projects is expected to be completed in 2014.

The opportunity
Given the growing global need for cleaner energy, there's no questioning the growth potential that China Ming Yang has. A report from Navigant Research projects wind power to account for nearly 5% of the world's electricity generation by 2017, up from about 2.6% this year. While China Ming Yang's share in the global wind power market was roughly 3% in 2012, a report from ResearchinChina shows that its share in the domestic Chinese market hit 10% by the first half of 2013 even as close competitor Sinovel's share slipped to 7%. That's great news for China Ming Yang investors.

But the company needs to expand its global reach, especially after the U.S. snatched the crown of the world's largest wind power market in the world from China last year. India too is emerging a key player, and is expected to install greater wind capacity next year as compared to the U.S.

Foolish takeaway
More importantly, China Ming Yang must plug internal loopholes such as high costs as early as possible. Management lacks vision, and doesn't provide financial forecasts. That, combined with the volatility in the company's earnings, makes it difficult to forecast when it could turn profitable. If China Ming Yang's margins don't improve next year, it could take long to break even.

Given these uncertainties, I think China Ming Yang shares will continue to be highly volatile next year, and investors should remain careful.

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