What happened

Easy come, easy go.

Yesterday, shares of Plug Power (PLUG -5.81%) seemed ready to rebound on the back of optimistic news out of Wall Street (specifically, a pair of upgrades for Plug's fuel cell rival Ballard Power Systems). But now, it's looking less than likely that Plug will win any kind of upgrade for itself.

Not based on these earnings results, at least.

Big red arrow going down over a stock chart

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Yes, that's right. Bright and early this morning, Plug Power reported its earnings for fiscal Q4 2020 -- and when I say "earnings," I mean losses -- $1.12 per share of 'em, much worse than the $0.01 per-share loss that Wall Street had anticipated. As of 1 p.m. EST, Plug shares are down 12% in response.  

The company boasted of $96.3 million in "gross billings" (bills sent to its customers, but not necessarily revenue received in payment for goods and services) recorded in its fourth fiscal quarter, and $337.4 million for the full year fiscal 2020. And yet, actual revenue at the company was quite different.  

Plug said its revenue for the fourth quarter was negative $316 million, and negative $100 million for the year, negating nearly half the revenue the company said it collected in 2019. This difference between the gross billings that Plug often features in its earnings reports and actual revenue used in generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) calculations is probably something the company's investors should keep in mind.

Farther down the income statement, Plug's gross losses exploded: $423 million for the year, almost all of which showed up suddenly in just this final quarter of the year. Operating losses surpassed $550 million, and on the bottom line, Plug lost nearly $562 million -- $1.58 per share for the year.

Now what

Despite all the negative numbers, Plug insists it plans to "accelerate expansion in [the] green hydrogen generation business" in 2021, and it will "continue to expand via partnerships, joint ventures and acquisitions in the hydrogen ecosystem." The company is looking to grow gross billings (again, not revenue) to $475 million in 2021, then grow that number again in 2022, to $750 million.

There's no word on what that will work out to in revenue, however -- and no word on how much money Plug might lose.