What happened

Shares of fuel cell pioneer Bloom Energy (BE -2.15%) are electrifying investors Friday morning, scoring an 11.7% gain in share price as of 10 a.m. ET despite missing earnings rather badly last night.

Heading into the third quarter, analysts had forecast that Bloom would lose $0.06 per share, adjusted for one-time items, on quarterly sales of $277.2 million. The bad news is that Bloom actually lost $0.20 per share (also adjusted). The good news, though -- and the reason investors are happy despite the loss -- is that Bloom scored quarterly sales of $292.3 million.  

So what

Bloom Energy's non-GAAP (adjusted) loss for the quarter may have been worse than what Wall Street was expecting, but the really bad news for Bloom last quarter is that, when calculated according to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), the company actually lost $0.31 per share -- which is five times worse than a $0.06 loss.  

Nevertheless, investors seem happy with the results today. Why is that?

Well, looking at things in the brightest possible light, Bloom Energy's GAAP loss was really only $0.01 worse than its $0.30-per-share GAAP loss a year ago, and it was only half as much money as Bloom lost in the second quarter. So that's kind of an improvement. And of course, Bloom did grow revenue impressively -- up 41% year over year.

Now what

Perhaps the prospect that's exciting investors even more, though, is that despite missing earnings in Q3, Bloom management seems convinced it can pull out of this slump and recover the extra losses next quarter. Reaffirming its outlook for the full year, Bloom insisted it still expects to book more than $1.1 billion in revenue by year-end, and improve its non-GAAP operating profit margin on that revenue to positive 1%.

If Bloom is right about that, then management should be able to report a pro forma operating profit for the full year -- whereas according to Yahoo! Finance estimates, Wall Street is still expecting Bloom to report a $0.42-per-share (presumably non-GAAP) net loss.

Granted, an operating profit can still yield a net loss for Bloom (and probably will). But the potential for Bloom to be able to report any kind of profit could be the kind of catalyst that will turn around sentiment for the stock. Personally, I wouldn't buy Bloom stock on that tenuous prospect -- but today it appears I'm in the minority in holding that view.