Thursday, May 22, 2008

In the wind-power biz, beware giving some stocks a whirl (ZOLT, AMSC)

The headline story is below this one from

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Zoltek Companies, an alternative energy company lacking a permanent CFO that disclosed problems with its financial reports earlier this month.

Zoltek, a supplier of carbon fibers used in wind turbine blades and other equipment, said in a Tuesday 8-K filing that on May 13, it received a letter from the SEC indicating the regulator's staff was conducting "a non-public, fact-finding investigation" and requested that the company hold on to certain records and to information and documents related to matters disclosed in a May 5 8-K....

From the Los Angeles Times Money & Co. blog:

Times staff writer Edward Silver filed this report on a sudden wave of activity in the wind-power business -- and two stocks in the sector that may be overblown:

Wind power is on a hot streak. First, the Department of Energy last week forecast that the industry might deliver 20% of the nation’s electricity by 2030. It generates less than 1% now. Then famed oilman T. Boone Pickens ordered 667 turbines to outfit the wind empire he envisions on the Texas Panhandle. Pickens may shell out $10 billion or more before all is said and done. Over the weekend, Spain-based Iberdrola Renewables said it planned to invest $8 billion in U.S. wind operations in the next two years.

All the while, oil has continued its ominous ascent, making the renewable-energy proposition all the more compelling....

...Zoltek Cos. sells more super-sturdy carbon fiber for turbine blades than anyone else. With clients like Vestas and Gamesa, it's enviably entrenched as a supplier. Yet it hasn't made the most of its opportunity, and that's largely the fallout of internal failures. This month, Zoltek’s chief financial officer made his exit amid accounting questions that Bush still finds worrisome. The firm also has run into roadblocks trying to get its U.S. plants up to speed, holding back output while demand swells.

Some investors were buoyed by the company's recent quarterly results. Others weren't. Revenue rose 35% year over year, but that fell short of forecasts. Bush, unimpressed, rates the shares "sector perform" with a $28 target, slightly below their current level.

He also advises investors to beware American Superconductor Corp. -- which may be the message of the CEO's avid personal stock sales as well. AMSC hasn't turned a profit since its IPO in the early '90s. Despite that, it boasts a market cap well past $1 billion...MUCH MORE