What happened

Fuel cell company Ballard Power Systems (BLDP 0.32%) suffered three times as many price target cuts as hikes post-earnings today, as reductions at Piper Sandler, Citigroup, and BMO Capital outweighed a hike at Lake Street, reports TheFly.com.  

The more negative sentiment among analysts appears to be weighing on the whole fuel cell sector as a result, with shares of not just Ballard declining today (down a fraction of a percent in 3:10 p.m. EST trading), but Bloom Energy (BE 1.14%) and Plug Power (PLUG 0.26%) also falling -- down 2.1% and 2.8%, respectively.

Person with red marker drawing a downwardly sloping line

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

What did the analysts say to upset investors? While Lake Street played up Ballard's "leading technology," "key strategic relationships," and "unique market position," BMO reminded investors that Ballard's results were worse than expected, and Citi warned that despite government support for the sector, "real growth is back-end loaded by mid-decade."

That jibes with the opinions of most analysts, by the way, who see Ballard remaining unprofitable both this year and next, and not earning its first profit before 2023 at the earliest. 2023 is supposed to be the first year of positive profits for Bloom as well, with Plug's profitability not arriving before 2024.

Now what

Granted, when (if?) it arrives, the "back-end" growth that analysts forecast could be impressive. Analysts see Ballard's profits growing seven times in two years, Bloom tripling its 2023 earnings by 2025, and Plug tripling between 2024 and 2025. Of course, the trick will be earning that first profit in the first place.

And that's something none of the fuel cell companies has managed to accomplish to date.