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American Superconductor's (Nasdaq: AMSC ) shares have been hit hard lately because of concerns about demand from its major customer Sinovel. Barron's helped bring concerns to the forefront a few weeks ago when it pointed out that 80% of American Superconductor's sales came from that one customer. And with inventories rising at Sinovel, there could be more pain ahead for shareholders. So should we be concerned?
A healthy dose of skepticism is always good, especially in a company growing quickly with one customer. But American Superconductor has done a pretty good job of diversifying its business lately; it just hasn't hit the books yet.
The wind is still blowing
The wind market as a whole hasn't performed very well this year as competition increases. Wind turbines have struggled for General Electric (NYSE: GE ) , and there are rumors of Gamesa being bought out. At the same time, A-Power Energy Generation Systems (Nasdaq: APWR ) is getting into the game by building wind turbines, so it seems there is no shortage of players trying to get a piece of this tough business.
But a lot of this competition is using American Superconductor's technology as well. In presentations, the company highlights 12 customers who will become major buyers, and most of those customers are just starting to ramp up production. This will diversify American Superconductor's customer base for wind and keep it from relying too much on Sinovel.
And there is more than wind for American Superconductor. In October, management announced the SolarTie Grid Interconnection Solution, expanding into the solar business. Then last week, the company announced an order for its D-VAR STATCOM reactive compensation solution.
And don't forget about superconductors. Sales aren't a big component yet, but a recent order for 3 million meters of superconducting wire is a pretty good start for a business with high potential.
No doubt there are many unknowns for American Superconductor, but the company has more going for it than just orders from Sinovel. And although its dependence on Sinovel is a risk, sometimes going against conventional wisdom has its advantages. This could be one of those times for company investors.
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