Shares of hydrogen fuel cell company Plug Power (PLUG 5.64%) are on a tear in Wednesday morning trading, up 10.3% at 11:30 a.m. EST. It's not immediately clear what's causing the rush of enthusiasm, but I have my suspicions.
Plug reported its third-quarter earnings on Monday. Wall Street wasted no time responding to the report with a spate of price target hikes -- with Roth Capital projecting Plug stock will go to $22 within a year, Oppenheimer saying $23, B. Riley $24, and Craig-Hallum $26, according to TheFly.com.
And most recently, our friends at Tipranks.com tipped us to the biggest price target hike of all: H.C. Wainwright has just raised its price target on Plug Power stock to a Street high of $30 a share. Individual investors are responding to all these hikes as investors are wont to do -- by buying Plug shares hand over fist.
This enthusiasm is not entirely without basis. After all, although Plug Power missed analyst earnings estimates badly yesterday, the company did grow its sales 80% year over year. It also reaffirmed its long-term goal of achieving operating profitability ($200 million worth) by 2024, and growing its gross billings to $1.2 billion in that year.
That's quite a reach -- Plug Power is only projected to do about $290 million in sales this year, after all. But Wainwright, in its note, published a prediction that not only will Plug Power grow its sales past $1 billion in 2024, but by 2030, the company will be doing an astounding $7.4 billion in annual business, resulting in a compound annual growth rate north of 38%.
That investors would be elated by such a promise is entirely understandable. I'd just inject one note of caution amid all the enthusiasm: As fast as Plug's sales grew last quarter (80%), its losses grew even faster (117%), and its rate of cash burn faster still. Free cash flow year to date for Plug is now negative $168.2 million -- three times the amount of cash Plug had burnt at this point in time last year.
To me, that seems a better reason to sell the stock than to buy it.