I get a lot of funny email from folks who are up in arms about naked shorting, but one side benefit is that the companies they like can provide excellent short ideas, such as the one I've been checking out today.
Red flag No. 1: An overhyped, unprofitable industry
Fuel cells! Although everyone remains, for some reason, certain that fuel cells are going to be big, big, in the future, stocks such as Ballard Power
Red flag No. 2: Substance-less hype
The new fuel cell flavor is a recently IPOed company called HokuScientific
You want the real kicker? The firms that initiated coverage on the stock at "outperform"-- Piper Jaffray and Thomas Weisel -- and pushed this thing through the roof over the past week just happen to have been involved with the IPO. Sheer coincidence, I'm sure.
Are they right? I doubt it. But what I do know is that a stock that's zipped from an IPO $6 a share to more than $12 is a spicy meatball that deserves a little more scrutiny than it's getting.
Actually, I've got no beef with Hoku. But I've got a big problem with those who would have investors chase this stock to the moon by hyping "market opportunities," when it says, right up front in the filings, "our customers have not commercially deployed products incorporating Hoku MEAs or Hoku Membranes, and we have not sold any products commercially."
The reality is that Hoku booked a measly $1.1 million in revenues in its last quarter. Sure, that's a lot more than the $100,000 from the prior-year quarter, but don't bet on 11-fold top-line growth. Read the filings, and you'll see that the company's revenues aren't going to keep skyrocketing, since sales are based on a couple of key contracts, one with Nissan and the other with the Navy. That leaves about $3 million in deferred revenue to be recognized in upcoming quarters, along with $1.2 million in already accrued expenses.
Unless I've got my math wrong (and that's certainly possible), the contracts elucidated in the latest filing give a picture of pretty slim revenue potential. The Navy contract will pay up to an aggregate $2 million more as milestones are met, with options that would top out at another $2.5 million.
(And why was R&D cut nearly in half last quarter? Seems strange for a company that's on the edge of new technology.)
For this, investors are willing to pay $206 million dollars? My guess is they won't be paying that price for long. I'm all for the fuel-cell future. But let them experiment on their own dime, Fool.
For related Foolishness:
Seth Jayson really wonders sometimes. At the time of publication, he had positions in no company mentioned here -- but if he did, he'd be short. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.