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Why Ballard Power Systems, Herbalife, and Intercept Pharmaceuticals Tumbled Today

On Monday, investors were generally pleased after the weekend's events between Ukraine and Russia turned out not to be as bad as some had feared last Friday. Yet even though the Dow, S&P 500, and other major stock market measures rose about 1% today, investors in Ballard Power Systems (NASDAQ: BLDP  ) , Herbalife (NYSE: HLF  ) , and Intercept Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ICPT  ) weren't so lucky, suffering substantial losses today.

Ballard Power Systems dropped 9% on a bad day for fuel-cell stocks generally, as peers Plug Power (NASDAQ: PLUG  ) and FuelCell Energy (NASDAQ: FCEL  ) declined 3% and 7% respectively. Skeptics have started raising the question of whether fuel-cell stocks truly have the growth potential that their recent share-price performance suggests, and one problem that Ballard and its industry counterparts face is that even though their technology is in the spotlight right now, trends among alternative energy producers tend to run hot and cold over time, suggesting that now could be a bad time to get into the space. For Ballard, one institutional investor might well have come to that conclusion, as major investor Anglo American Platinum converted a promissory note into shares last Friday. The move will make it easier for Anglo American to sell its stake in the fuel-cell company, adding one more investor to the list of those who think that the sector has come too far too fast.

Herbalife declined 8%, adding to its 10% drop last week. The controversy over an investigation into the multi-level marketing company's business practices turned political Monday, as the Republican opponent of the Massachusetts Senate member who called for regulators to investigate Herbalife filed an ethics complaint. The allegations point to donations from Bill Ackman's Pershing Square hedge fund to political action committees that support Senate campaigns, and with Ackman having publicly taken a short position in the stock, he benefited from the downward move after the announcement of the investigation. What's increasingly clear, though, is that the investigation likely won't go away anytime soon, and so Herbalife will have potential trouble hanging over its head for the foreseeable future.

Intercept Pharmaceuticals plunged $55 per share, or 12%, today despite the biotech reporting narrower losses than year-ago levels. The company released some fairly encouraging study results that indicated that its obeticholic acid drug led to reduced levels of adverse serum alkaline phosphatase, giving Intercept more ammunition for filing for FDA approval of the drug for use against a liver disease called primary biliary cirrhosis. But with other results pointing to possible cardiovascular side effects for patients suffering from another liver disease, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, investors are clearly nervous that the FDA might not approve the drug or at least require further trials to demonstrate the drug's safety.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2014, at 9:55 AM, ICanFool wrote:

    What does " $100m Amplats’ firepower for platinum metals development" in companies like Ballard and others mean to you?

  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2014, at 9:57 AM, ICanFool wrote:

    Some 800 platinum-using fuel-cell installations are already up and running in South Africa and Amplats envisages local fuel-cell manufacture once there is sufficient offtake.


    Pillay believes that the Primus range has universal application but with it being new technology, there is a need for it to come down the cost curve.

    Other current investments have been in the Vancouver-based fuel-cell company Ballard Technologies and the US-based stationary fuel-cell company Altergy Systems, which supplies telecommunications back-up systems.

    Amplats is working closely with Ballard on stationary power for rural off-grid areas and a 34-household farming community near the Free State town of Kroonstad will be the focal point of April field trials, which could create South Africa’s first mini-grid application.

    Protea Chemicals – which already supplies methanol to telecommunications back-ups and is well versed in fuelling safety and logistics – will be the methanol supplier.

    Amplats has co-invested with South Africa’s Science and Technology Department in the South African fuel-cell company Clean Energy Investments, which has a distribution agreement with Altergy for the telecommunications back-up sector.

  • Report this Comment On March 20, 2014, at 10:06 AM, etbob1 wrote:

    Another shallow piling it on article from Motley Fool. Others knock a company, and predictably MF piles on with paraphrased commentary. No sources identified as to where the facts were sourced for this article.

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Dan Caplinger

Dan Caplinger has been a contract writer for the Motley Fool since 2006. As the Fool's Director of Investment Planning, Dan oversees much of the personal-finance and investment-planning content published daily on With a background as an estate-planning attorney and independent financial consultant, Dan's articles are based on more than 20 years of experience from all angles of the financial world.

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