Why Westport's 2012 Looks Bright

With 2012 just beginning, now's a smart time to gauge how the stocks you're interested in are likely to do this year and beyond. By knowing what stock analysts and fellow investors expect from a stock, you'll be smarter about whether you should keep buy it for your portfolio -- or sell it if you already own it.

Today, let's take a look at Westport Innovations (Nasdaq: WPRT  ) . As I discussed last month, Westport's natural gas engines could revolutionize the way Americans drive. But despite natural gas prices being extremely cheap right now, the infrastructure needed to support gas-powered vehicles isn't there yet. When will Westport finally turn its innovations into profits? Below, I'll take a closer look at what people expect from Westport and its rivals.

Forecasts on Westport Innovations

Median Target Stock Price $31.00
Fiscal 2011 EPS Estimate ($1.11)
Fiscal 2012 EPS Estimate ($0.66)
Expected Annual Earnings Growth, Next 5 Years 30%
Forward P/E NM
CAPS Rating (out of 5) *****

Source: Yahoo! Finance. NM = not meaningful due to negative expected earnings.

How will 2012 go for Westport?
Westport isn't expected to have a huge year in 2012. Analysts expect somewhat narrower losses for the small company, which is a good sign after much wider losses in 2011. But it's still likely to end up a long way for being truly profitable.

But Westport has set the stage for longer-term profits. One key component of that has been Westport's strategy of forging ties with much larger companies. With both Ford (NYSE: F  ) and General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) lined up to design engines for various types of vehicles, Westport will be able to play those competitors against each other -- and both Ford and GM will want to make sure that the other doesn't get too far ahead of it in the natural-gas powered realm.

Westport's playing a similar strategy in the commercial realm. Although it has had a long-standing relationship with Cummins (NYSE: CMI  ) , Westport is also working with Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) to incorporate its technology into heavy-duty engines. Neither heavy machinery maker wants to get left out of this trend, and by playing industry peers against each other to some extent, Westport maintains its independence and builds a diverse base of customers.

One fair concern that investors may have is that the stock has come quite far very fast. With a gain of almost 80% in 2011 -- including a jump of 20% in December alone -- investors have high hopes for Westport. If any of its initiatives fall short, those gains could reverse themselves in a hurry. Nevertheless, as a speculative stock, Westport's worth a close look to add to sector exposure alongside more-established energy companies.

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Click here to add Westport Innovations to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Westport Innovations, Cummins, Ford, and General Motors; and creating a synthetic long position in Ford. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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