Monthly Archives: December 2015

Lightbridge Flirts with Areva

by Debra Fiakas CFA Last week nuclear fuel developer Lightbridge Corporation (LTBR:  Nasdaq) announced an agreement with nuclear power plant builder Areva (AREVA:  Paris; ARVCF:  OTC/QB) to form a joint venture.  The present pact is a precursor to a formal joint venture agreement that would team up the two companies  -  one very large multinational nuclear power house and one still quite small fuel developer  -  in joint development of Lightbridge’s metallic nuclear fuel technology. Lightbridge has developed and patented a novel design that replaces conventional tubes filled with ceramic uranium pellets now used by pressurized...

The Great Algae Flour Fight: Solazyme Wins Again

Jim Lane After the bizarre attempted heist detailed in The Great Algae Robbery, Roquette tries the US courts but comes up short, in its quest to get a hold of Solazyme’s (SZYM) algae tech. On a slow news day just before Christmas, those of us on the industrial biotechnology beat have no need to stop by the firehouse to ask if there is a breaking story to report, because we always have the lively docket of Judge Sue Robinson, Federal District Judge for the District of Delaware. This Christmas she did not fail us, for in our Christmas news...

Lights of Energy Focus

by Debra Fiakas CFA It is the season of lights.  Lights for Hanukkah.  Lights for Christmas.  Energy Focus (EFOI:  Nasdaq) has been having a season of lights all year.  The company reported $62.3 million in total sales of its LED lighting products in the most recently reported twelve months.  Customers included large business and industry, property owners and the military.  The oil and gas industry is an important market vertical. Energy Focus really shines for the U.S. Navy with its explosion proof LED globes in all the colors the Navy needs to provide military personnel safety...

Interest Rate Increase? FuhGettaBoutIt!

by Debra Fiakas CFA There has been considerable fuss in recent weeks about the Federal Open Market Committee decision to raise its benchmark interest rate.  The one-quarter point increase has finally been announced and investors now are watching with bated breath to see how the increased cost of funds at the Fed ‘window’ will impact borrowing costs for companies large and small.  In our Beach Boys Index of alternative energy producers, we found a number of companies that rely on debt as a capital source.  However, not all energy producers have debt.  So when Janet Yellen...

Bearing The Interest Burden

by Debra Fiakas CFA Smaller companies frequently avoid debt as a capital source, relying instead mostly on equity.  After all common stock  holders are often content to wait for years for a dividend as the small, young company secures its market position and builds profits.  Pesky creditors are always knocking on the door for interest payments and principal return. Yet, a number of smaller companies included in our Beach Boys Index of alternative fuel producers have chosen to use debt. We reviewed a group of them to determine the impact of increase in interest rates that could...

Can Broad Shoulders Shake Off The Rate Hike?

by Debra Fiakas CFA Some investors may be surprised by the repercussions of an increase in the Federal Reserve’s benchmark interest rate.  The Federal Open Market Committee is expected to take action next week for the first time in nine years to increase the rate from near zero.  Odds makers have pegged the magnitude of the rate increase by a quarter percentage point. We decided to take a look at some of the companies in Crystal Equity Research’s Beach Boys Index composed of biofuel, ethanol, renewable diesel and other alternative fuel producers.  We looked to see which...

Comparative Valuation of 15 Yieldcos

Tom Konrad CFA Compared to the peak of the Yieldco bubble in May, many Yieldcos have dropped by more than half, and most by more than a third. Some of this decline is because rapid dividend growth depends on an endless supply of cheap investor capital which is another way of saying that we can have rapid dividend growth or high dividend yields, but not both.  Part of the decline was due to the realization that many Yeildcos (most notably Terraform Power (TERP), Terraform Global (GLBL), and Abengoa Yield (ABY)) were not immune to...

What Yieldco Managers Are Saying About The Market Meltdown

by Tom Konrad Ph.D., CFA Note: This article was first published on GreenTechMedia on Noveber 27th. In the last six months, YieldCos have fallen from stock market darlings to pariahs.  YieldCos are companies that buy clean energy projects such as solar and wind farms, and use the majority of free cash flow from these projects to pay dividends to investors. Many are listed subsidiaries or carve-outs of large developers of clean energy projects. Last year, investors repeatedly punished leading solar developers and manufacturer First Solar and SunPower for their reluctance to launch YieldCos. When...

AeroVironment Hits Pay Dirt

by Debra Fiakas CFA After the market close Tuesday, AeroVironment, Inc. (AVAV:  Nasdaq) is scheduled to report financial results for the quarter ending October 2015.  Management is holding conference call with investors and analysts directly following the announcement.  It is going to be an interesting call. AeroVironment has some crowing to do.  Hyundai recently tapped the company to provide electric vehicle charging stations at its dealerships for the 2016 Sonata plug-in hybrid model.  Sonata drivers will also have the option to buy the company’s TurboCard charging system or the wall-mounted EVSE-RS charging station.  Hyundai is the...

The Status of The Yieldco

by Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA Last week I delivered the keynote at Yieldcon USA, a conference put on by Solar Plaza entirely focused on Yieldcos. (Yieldcos are companies that own clean energy assets such as solar and wind farms and use the cash flows to pay a high rate of current income to investors.) Given all that's gone on in the space in the last few weeks, the conference could not have been more timely. You can find the presentation here and embedded below:

Investing For The Anthropocene

by Garvin Jabusch Jack Bogle is flat wrong. I mean, within his worldview and that of Modern Portfolio Theory, he’s right, but in the Anthropocene, he’s wrong. Bogle, founder and retired CEO of the Vanguard Group, is known for championing the superiority of low-fee index funds. His firm’s largest product, the $155 billion Vanguard 500 Index Fund is the perfect poster child for his philosophy. It closely tracks the S&P 500 Index of America’s largest companies, and it has a fee of only 0.06% inclusive. The S&P 500 has performed better than most actively managed portfolios over time, so...

FuelTech: Pushing on a String of New Orders

by Debra Fiakas CFA Earlier this month Fuel Tech, Inc. (FTEK:  Nasdaq) announced the receipt of order for air pollution control systems totaling $2.0 million.  The customers are strung out across the U.S., Europe and China, but they all have dirty combustion systems and need to reduce toxic nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions or risk running afoul of government clean air standards.  These shipments are just the most recent in a string of orders Fuel Tech has won in recent months.  In late August 2015, the company received similar air pollution contracts from...

EPA increases US Renewable Fuel Standard Volumes, But Only Slightly

Jim Lane In Washington, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced final volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard program today for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, and final volume requirements for biomass-based diesel for 2014 to 2017. This rule finalizes higher volumes of renewable fuel than the levels EPA proposed in June, boosting renewable production and providing support for robust, achievable growth of the biofuels industry. “The biofuel industry is an incredible American success story, and the RFS program has been an important driver of that successcutting carbon pollution, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and sparking...

Looking for Cash in Old Refrigerators

by Debra Fiakas CFA Appliance Recycling Centers of America (ARCI:  NYSE) is a typical small company, toiling away in seeming obscurity and struggling to get proper valuation of their success.  There is little glamour in old refrigerators and washing machines, but ARCA has figured out how to wring cash from recycling our household appliances.  In the last three fiscal years the company converted 1.6% of sales to operating cash flow. Unfortunately, things have turned a bit sour in the world of old Frigidaires and tired Maytags.  Last week ARCA reported financial results for the quarter ending September...