Plug Power (NASDAQ:PLUG) has moved higher in recent months despite an earnings miss and continued losses. The Latham, New York-based maker of hydrogen fuel cells has struggled for years as its technology fights to gain mainstream acceptance. Although recent progress could justify a speculative position in Plug Power stock, the company may find itself eclipsed by a principal peer.
Typically, an equity such as PLUG would not gain investor attention. However, its prospects improved in April 2017 when Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) agreed to buy $600 million worth of Plug Power’s hydrogen fuel cells to power its forklifts.
Unfortunately, since the announcement of that deal more than two years ago, Plug Power has seen little net growth. This is despite attracting business from Walmart (NYSE:WMT), GE (NYSE:GE), and other prominent customers. Moreover, the earnings miss for the first quarter intensified the selloff.
Plug Power Stock and Technology
PLUG stock has increased in value for most of the year as analysts forecasted a possible profit next year for its peer, Bloom Energy (NYSE:BE). Also, even though PLUG fell after earnings, it recovered the post-earnings loss quickly. Now, investors wonder if that move higher can continue.
Still, Plug Power remains mired in losses. Also, most of its direct peers find themselves in the same market position. Both FuelCell Energy (NASDAQ:FCEL) and Ballard Power Systems (NASDAQ:BLDP) also remain money-losing penny stocks.
Traders would likely forgive the losses if the market would more widely embrace fuel cells. However, consumers have instead bought the electric cars made by Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) and others.
Tesla enjoys a marketing, production, and name recognition advantage. It also benefits from a considerable lead in both refueling stations and cars on the road.
However, refueling has become the area where Plug Power and other fuel cell companies could compete with Tesla. Refueling with fuel cells occurs in fewer than 10 minutes. Tesla cars require more than an hour under the best of conditions. That would presumably play into the hands of Plug Power stock.
Moreover, Tesla does not offer much of an advantage regarding production costs. In Japan, the Mirai made by Toyota (NYSE:TM) costs $50,000 after the Japanese government’s $20,000 subsidy. This comes in lower than a Tesla Model S. Still, Toyota currently builds only about 10 Mirai cars per day, calling into question how serious Toyota is about fuel cell technology.
Choose BE over PLUG Stock
Still, this might give Plug Power stock the fuel it needs to finally make gains. It may also justify a speculative bet for those who can wait for months or even years. However, there, Plug Power faces competition from Bloom Energy.
BE stock shows a lower price-to-sales (PS), around 1.7 versus about 3.7 for PLUG. Also, Bloom Energy’s has a better, albeit still negative profit margin. Margins for Bloom come in at -39.9% compared with -55.3% for PLUG power.
Moreover, despite a much shorter history, Bloom Energy has attained a market cap nearly twice as large as Plug Power. Finally, at just under $12 per share, BE trades well above penny stock status. For these reasons, Bloom Energy might better serve speculative investors.
Final Thoughts on PLUG stock
Although one might make a speculative case for owning Plug Power, it appears one key peer might eclipse the company. Plug Power has struggled for decades as hydrogen fuel cells have failed to gain broad market acceptance. Though deals with Amazon, Walmart, and GE brought some hope, PLUG remains a penny stock.
The fact that fuel cell-powered cars offer a crucial advantage over Tesla might justify speculation in fuel cell stocks. However, when comparing the financial state of the more prominent fuel cell companies, investors should probably choose Bloom Energy over Plug Power.
As of this writing, Will Healy did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned stocks. You can follow Will on Twitter at @HealyWriting.
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