Why Revolution Lighting Technologies Inc. Stock Surged 23% Last Week Despite a Lower Outlook

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.

What: Shares of Revolution Lighting Technologies  (NASDAQ: RVLT  ) dazzled last week, gaining a mind-boggling 23% after the LED lighting solutions company provided an update for its fourth-quarter numbers slated for a mid-March release. Interestingly, the company lowered its fourth-quarter revenue guidance by 30%. So why did the stock soar?

So what: During its last earnings release in November, Revolution projected $10 million revenue for the fourth quarter. The company has pulled that down to $7 million, citing delay in a "large international order" as the reason. While the company didn't provide any further details, it says its fourth-quarter pro forma revenue should still double year over year. Pro forma here would mean adjusting for the impact of the company's acquisition of Seesmart Technologies in December 2012.

Twice the revenue certainly isn't bad, but that's not what excited the market. While lowering its top line guidance, Revolution projects an order pipeline worth $200 million to be filled over the next year and a half. Given that the company's pro forma revenue for the full year 2013 should end up under $35 million, that pipeline figure sounds great. More notably, Revolution reiterated its gross margin target of 35% for 2014.

Now what: It's evident that Revolution's top line is growing at an accelerating pace. The company's growth moves seem to be paying off as well -- Revolution expects its acquisitions to contribute half of its total revenue this year. The company's order book is growing, and it has some prestigious customers on its list such as the U.S. Navy, which ordered 17,000 LED tube lamps from Revolution last quarter.

Unfortunately, Revolution's incremental revenue isn't reaching its bottom line. Despite a more than fivefold jump in revenue for the nine months ended Sept. 30, 2013, Revolution incurred a loss of $13.5 million, or $6.5 million after adjusting for one-time items. Aside from high research and development costs (which is good in a way that the company is investing into its future), Revolution's selling and administrative expenses are substantial. Huge operating losses mean negative cash flows, which is enough to turn any prudent investor off.

That said, the LED market has huge growth potential, so Revolution appears to be in the right business at the right time. The question is how the little company will find a place for itself in a market that's dominated by big and well-established competitors, and when will it start churning profits. Only time will tell. Until then, I'd like to wait for a bit more clarity, at least on the operational front, before dipping my fingers into a stock that quadrupled last year and tacked 7% over the past one month despite the company's bleeding bottom line.

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