Friday, October 23, 2009

A123 Systems vs. BYD and Other Irrational Battery Investments (AONE; BRK.A)

We last touched base with AltEnergyStocks' John Petersen to bookmark his four-part primer we re-titled "Investing in the Battery Industry (AONE; ENS; HEV; XIDE)" (see post for why we didn't go with his headline). Today he takes a rougher approach. From AltEnergyStocks:
Mother always taught me that if you can't say something nice, it's usually better to say nothing. While regular readers might question my ability to follow Mom's advice, this is an article I had really hoped somebody else would write. The quick summary is that while the shares of A123 Systems (AONE) may be a reasonable investment at current prices, the shares of BYD Co. Ltd. (BYDDF.PK) are an irrational value proposition, the shares of Ener1 (HEV) are even worse, and the shares of Valence Technologies (VLNC) are beyond understanding. Since many readers find detailed tables more confusing than enlightening, I'll use words instead of numbers to explain my reasoning. I'll also assume that every company I mention has a great technology. Accordingly, this article will focus exclusively on the hard-core financial data and be far shorter than most.

To create a baseline for comparisons, I'll start with Exide Technologies (XIDE) and Enersys (ENS), the two largest pure-play battery manufacturers in the world. During the twelve calendar months ended June 30, 2009, Exide was restructuring its operations and lost $113.1 million on sales of $2.9 billion. During the same period Enersys earned $67.5 million on sales of $1.7 billion. Exide's current market capitalization of $552 million represents roughly 176% of book value and 19% of annual sales. Enersys' current market capitalization of $1.14 billion represents roughly 157% of book value and 66% of annual sales. For the sake of simplicity, I believe a baseline market price standard of 2x book value and 1x sales is probably reasonable for established manufacturers of traditional battery products.

Until recently, it was almost impossible to establish a baseline for emerging manufacturers of advanced battery products....MORE