A rumor popped up in The Times of India last week that fuel cell maker Ballard Power (Nasdaq:BLDP) of British Columbia, Canada was looking to acquire a ten percent stake in Adani Power in a deal valued at approximately $500 million.
Adani Power, part of the $5 billion Adani Enterprises Group, is a supplier of conventional coal and thermal power, power transmission, and solar power plants. This seemed like a radical departure for Ballard, but clearly the whole fuel cell thing has not worked out as planned -- so maybe a strategic shift was in order.
The Indian paper checked the rumor with Ballard and got the standard "We don't respond to rumors" form letter in return. I inquired with both firms and today received a flat-out denial that the two companies had ever spoken from Ballard.
Which makes sense, because it seems a strategic mismatch and more importantly -- it's way out of Ballard's price range. Ballard's market capitalization is only $130.7 million.
In the time-honored tradition of the fuel cell industry, Ballard has not had a profitable quarter since its founding in 1987 and has managed to lose almost a billion dollars since that time.
Ballard builds and sells -- at a loss -- proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. The firm has performed this philanthropic service in a variety of markets including automotive and stationary power, producing 120 megawatts of cumulative shipments since its founding. Ballard's customers include Toyota, Wind Mobile, FirstEnergy, Wal-Mart, BMW, Coca-Cola, and FedEx. Revenues increased from $46.7 million in 2009 to $65 million last year, but Ballard has seen its bottom line shrink from a loss of $3.2 million in 2009 to an even larger loss of $34.9 million in 2010.
Greentech Media published a fuel cell industry review here.
Nissan-Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn has predicted that fuel cells will be part of the automotive picture "within the next ten years." Ghosn's optimism on fuel cells is not shared by all, including Steven Chu and the U.S. DOE, which has curtailed much of the flow of research dollars going into fuel cells. Still, Ghosn remains committed to a fuel cell vehicle.
Bloom Energy, a rapidly expanding, VC-funded, SOFC-based fuel cell firm, continues to generate significant fuel cell revenue and press. Bloom has become adept at working the subsidies available for renewables such as California's SGIP. Profitability numbers remain to be seen and we await that data in the S-1 that is rumored to be filed in the next few months.