Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
What: Much-maligned natural gas fuel provider Clean Energy Fuels (NASDAQ:CLNE) gained a strong 12% today, after having spent the past year getting walloped. The big jump was likely a product of a company press release, announcing two things that Mister Market apparently liked.The first was probably the biggest news:
Clean Energy delivered more than 50 million gasoline-gallon equivalents (GGEs) of compressed natural gas (CNG) last quarter, the most it has ever delivered in a single quarter before. This amount represented a 16% sequential increase, and a whopping 36% jump from the year-ago period. The second part of the announcement was that it had acquired a controlling interest in NG Advantage, a current partner based in New England.
So what: Apparently the market was expecting much less growth -- or maybe no growth -- based on how the stock has been getting killed this year. However it is relatively apparent that falling gas prices haven't affected its primary vehicle refueling business in the manner that people were expecting, and the price differential that is the biggest driver for its business remains compelling.
The second part of the announcement is interesting. NG Advantage primarily provides CNG to industrial and commercial customers, versus Clean Energy's primary business providing fuel for vehicle fleets. NG Advantage's customers are natural gas users that are not connected to a gas pipeline, but can benefit from NG as an alternative source of energy, or as a feedstock for an industrial process.
Now what: Both parts of this announcement are great news. The first bit is both a reminder that the majority of Clean Energy's business is from fleets that are already in place, and those vehicles aren't just going to get parked and replaced. Furthermore, it's also an indication that plenty of new CNG-powered vehicles have been added to fleets in the past year.
NG Advantage's station in Milton VT will become Clean Energy's largest station overnight, delivering more than 16 million gallons of CNG annually. Furthermore, seeing the company take steps to diversify itself away from total exposure to the vehicle market is a positive. We have already seen it sell LNG to a utility company in Hawaii, so more of these moves should be expected. The company's expertise in natural gas logistics apparently has value for multiple user groups, not just refueling vehicles.
Does this make Clean Energy Fuels a buy? Maybe. It's likely that the recent sell-off is way overdone, but the company has a lot of work ahead of it, and is still spending more cash than it brings in as it aggressively expands. At some point all those investments will need to turn into profits.
With that said, taking a small position is not a bad idea, if you're willing to ride through a bumpy market until the company shows us what kind of profits it can produce -- and that could be some time from happening. Clean Energy is scheduled to report full earnings next week. Stay tuned for more analysis.