Usually, the Yahoo! message boards for penny stocks like Altair Nanotechnologies (NASDAQ:ALTI) are worthless. The long and strong engage in their textbook demonstrations of confirmation bias and label anyone who disagrees a "basher."

But someone pointed out to me a very interesting "basher" post, which brings to light one of those bits of fuzzy math that has made me so skeptical of Altair over the years.

The recently released 10-K, which covers the period ended Dec. 31, notes the following, regarding the much-hyped sale of NanoSafe battery packs to Phoenix Motorcars.

"Product sales increased from $149,373 in 2005 to $961,380 in 2006 due to our first sales of battery packs to Phoenix Motorcars, Inc. Of the 11 battery packs ordered, four were shipped and seven were billed and held by us based upon the written request of Phoenix ..." [emphasis mine].

Now, compare that with Altair's Dec. 28 press release on this topic, which states, "Altair Nanotechnologies Inc. announced today that it shipped ten rapid charge, high power NanoSafe battery packs to Phoenix Motorcars, Inc. on schedule.... Altairnano's NanoSafe battery packs meet or exceed all performance specifications and the shipments were made on schedule and on time to Phoenix Motorcars," said Altairnano President and CEO Alan J. Gotcher Ph.D." [Again, emphasis mine.]

I don't know about you, but where I come from, four is not 11.

Altair seems to have realized that this looks funky, because if we look back to the 10-K, we see management waffling and explaining that, by its interpretation of accounting standards, not delivering the batteries really does count as delivering them. It states that the above-described non-delivery of the remaining seven battery packs "complied with the revenue recognition criteria described in the Securities and Exchange Commission 'Staff Accounting Bulletin No. 104 - Revenue Recognition in Financial Statements.'"

Uh-huh. But it sure doesn't pass the sniff test. Smells to me like Altair was stuffing the revenue channel at year-end to be able to show big top-line growth. And that's why I view any of management's projections and pronouncements to be suspect.

Beware, Altair, lest your portfolio become nanotized.

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At the time of publication, Seth Jayson had no positions in any company mentioned here. See his latest blog commentary here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.