What happened

Shares of fuel cell manufacturer FuelCell Energy (FCEL -0.09%) tanked in early trading on the Nasdaq Tuesday, falling 8.4% through 10:30 a.m. EST after the company missed badly on its Q4 2022 earnings report.

Heading into earnings day, analysts had forecast that FuelCell would book $43.8 million in sales and lose only $0.07 per share on that revenue -- but FuelCell missed on both the top and bottom lines. Sales came in more than 11% below expectations at just $39.2 million, and losses on those sales amounted to $0.11 per share -- more than 50% worse than expected.  

So what

The news wasn't all bad.

While FuelCell missed Wall Street's quarterly sales number, its sales still jumped more than 180% year over year for the quarter, capping a year in which total 2022 sales grew 88% ($130.5 million). The problem was that FuelCell still can't find a way to grow profitably.  

Losses for the year totaled $0.38 per share, up 23% versus 2021. And while Q4 showed accelerating sales growth, it also showed FuelCell growing its losses at an accelerating rate. $0.11 per share was 57% more money lost in 2022, than the $0.07 FuelCell lost in 2021.

This may all align with FuelCell's stated goal to "grow, scale and innovate" in its business, as CEO Jason Few put it. Unfortunately, the CEO said nothing about earning a profit from all of this growth -- and FuelCell still isn't earning any profit at all.

Now what

Granted, Few does assert that "FuelCell Energy is in a period of transition" right now. That may lead investors to hope that the transition is one from revenue growth to profitability.

Unfortunately, Few quickly disabused investors of that notion when he proceeded to clarify that 2023 will be a "transition" year as well, and one in which FuelCell "deploy[s] capital for plant, equipment and the talent needed to meaningfully increase the total manufacturing capacity across our technology platforms."

How long will this transition take? How long must investors wait to see FuelCell finally earn a profit? According to analysts polled by S&P Global Market Intelligence, the earliest that might happen is 2028 -- maybe 2029. Until then, investors will simply have to get used to hearing FuelCell report ceaseless losses.

Judging from today's stock price action, though, it seems they're getting a little tired of that.