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Plug Power Missed Earnings Estimates. Why Its Stock Is Gaining.

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Jens Schlueter/AFP via Getty Images

Hydrogen fuel-cell technology provider

Plug Power

reported somewhat disappointing first-quarter earnings on Tuesday. Its stock is rising anyway in recent trading.

The report signals things are calming down at the company after results were delayed by accounting issues.

Plug Power

(ticker: PLUG) reported a loss of 12 cents per share and $72 million in sales. Wall Street was looking for an eight-cent per-share loss and $69 million in sales. It’s an earning miss, but earnings for a smaller company with big growth plans aren’t as important as sales. Plug’s 2021 sales are expected to be $465 million, growing to more than $1 billion by 2023.

The company also ended the quarter with more than $4.3 billion in cash on its balance sheet.

Plug stock is up 6%, at $31.63, in recent trading, while the

S&P 500

is up 0.2%.

It took a while for the company to report its first quarter. In 2020, Plug reported first-quarter results on May 7. This year, however, accounting issues—disclosed in March—got in the way. The company ended up restating some older results after changing the accounting for customer contracts. Cash wasn’t affected by the restatements.

The accounting-related delay is another reason the stock isn’t doing much after the release of actual earnings. Amid all the restatements and updates, investors had a good sense of what was coming for the first quarter. Several times in May, Plug management had said sales would be greater than $67 million.

Evercore ISI analyst James West wrote in a Tuesday report that he wasn’t concerned with Plug Power’s near-term financials and was taking a longer-term view. He was encouraged by an announcement that Plug is working with

General Motors

(GM) as well as the progress the company is making on its manufacturing capacity. Plug is building more capacity to make fuel cells and hydrogen electrolyzers and expects to be running at full capacity by the fall.

An electrolyzer breaks water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can be stored and then used to power a fuel cell.

West rates shares Buy and has a $42 price target on the stock. Overall, 70% of analysts covering Plug stock rate shares Buy. The average Buy-rating ratio for stocks in the S&P 500 is about 55%.

Coming into Tuesday, Plug stock was down about 12% year to date, trailing behind comparable gains of the S&P 500 and the

Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Many renewable-energy stocks have struggled in 2021 after clocking huge 2020 gains. Stock in electric-vehicle maker

Tesla

(TSLA), for instance, is down about 12% year to date after rising 743% in 2020, and Plug stock rose 973% in 2020.

Write to Al Root at [email protected]

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