Trading flat for the first half of September, shares of Plug Power (PLUG -4.54%) jumped 12% following two announcements: the company's CEO, Andy Marsh, will be a featured speaker at the Wuhan HOME Innovation Summit in China, and he will be meeting with the mayor of Wuhan. The stock rode the surge through the rest of the month, ending September 11% higher than where it began.
News of Andy Marsh's trip to China surely stirred excitement among investors that the company would soon be expanding its global presence -- something it did over the summer when it announced it was securing two new customers in France. Stoking investors' hopes even further, Marsh commented, "Plug Power has proven the only viable, commercial application for widespread adoption of hydrogen engines today, a model that can translate into adoption in the Chinese market to meet internationally set sustainable development goals."
Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei province, is clearly committed to adopting fuel-cell technology. During their closed-door meeting, the mayor of Wuhan, Yong Wan, was expected to give Marsh an overview of the Wuhan Hydrogen Working Group and the 500 million Chinese Yuan (about $75 million) Wuhan Hydrogen Fund, which was established to "support local hydrogen initiatives, including fuel cell vehicles, hydrogen generation and storage, and hydrogen infrastructures," according to a Plug Power press release.
Any investors who keep Plug Power on their watchlists should certainly not interpret the stock's September movement as a sign that the tide has turned. The beleaguered company -- no less riddled with risk than it was before Marsh's trip -- continues to struggle with its inability to convert revenue into profits. For example, the company reported both year-over-year revenue growth of 61.5% in 2015 and significant EBITDA losses over the past two years: $84 million in 2014 and $52 million in 2015.
Forging new customer relationships overseas may seem desirable, but this would be illusory -- a sleight of hand as management misdirects investors' attention away from the real concern: the disconnect between top-line and bottom-line growth.