AIM listed technology developers27 January 2017
Share price trends over the last five years for four AIM listed companies, AFC Energy, Ceres Power, Flowgroup, and Proton Power Systems, are examined. To provide a comparison, Ballard Power Systems is used as an example of a non-AIM- listed company operating in a similar market. David Flin
AIM, formerly the Alternative Investment Market, is a sub-market of the London Stock Exchange that was launched in June 1995. It allows smaller, higher risk, companies, generally at an early stage of development and often not yet profitable, to float shares with a more flexible regulatory burden than is applicable to the main market.
AFC Energy is a UK-based industrial fuel cell power company, founded in 2006, which develops alkaline fuel cell systems using hydrogen. The company installs, owns, operates, and maintains alkaline fuel cell power projects. It is involved in three EU-funded projects, Lasercell, Alkammonia, and Power-Up. The Power-Up project involves construction and delivery of a 500 kW alkaline fuel cell system to a site at Stade in Germany. The Alkammonia project integrates the alkaline fuel cell system, fuel processing system, and an ammonia fuel system.
AFC has received support from the EU through grants underpinning the company’s R&D programme. It is not yet certain what effect the UK’s decision to leave the EU will have on future grant awards.
In Q3 of 2016, AFC Energy established a new leadership team, as it viewed the company transitioning from an R&D-focused technology company to a commercial business. The company has said that it plans to conclude the basic design and engineering on a 1 MW capacity fuel cell system capable of deployment in 2017 and expects to achieve its target of 1 GW of capacity installed or under development by 2020.
The share price has shown a regular rise and fall over the last 5 years.
In March and April 2015, AFC Energy signed three agreements: one for deployment of 50 MW of fuel cell generation capacity in South Korea with Samyoung Corporation and Chang Shin Chemical Company; a memorandum of understanding with Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence for the assessment and potential deployment of 300 MW of fuel cell generation capacity in Dubai; and a heads of agreement in Thailand to assess and deploy 10 MW for Bangkok Industrial Gas in Rayong Province, Thailand.
Ceres Power says it has positioned itself as an independent technology provider offering low cost fuel cell solutions. It describes its Steel Cell technology as a “new and disruptive technology that is proving itself repeatedly against demanding performance targets.”
The company’s latest development in the stack and system technology area is the Steel Gen platform, a 1 kW class prototype that was released
to customer programmes earlier this year. Ceres Power is also developing a multi-kW system to operate at efficiencies above 50%.
It predicts that the global market for stationary fuel cells will grow from $1.4 billion in 2013 to $40 billion by 2022.
Philip Caldwell, CEO of Ceres Power, said: “We find ourselves exclusively positioned in having a disruptive low-cost next generation Steel Cell technology. This enables us to embed the technology into as many applications and geographies as possible with the common building block of the Steel Cell.”
Since joining AIM in 2005, Ceres Power has only once reported revenue above £1 million, and has posted an average operating loss of £10 million. As a result, it has put considerable reliance on investors, and has repeatedly returned to the market for more money. However, Ceres said that it plans to pursue growth through partnership deals. At the start of October 2016, the company announced a £20 million fundraising through the placing of 229 million new shares. It’s not clear whether this is another capital-raising activity by the company, or if it is genuinely on the cusp of a new phase of growth. Ceres has entered partnerships with Nissan, Honda, and Cummins to test its systems in, respectively, electric vehicles, power equipment, and data centres.
In September, the company said it would begin to test its home power system in the UK by the end of the year. These trials will be supported by a €60 000 grant from the EU.
Flowgroup’s businesses include Flow Products, Flow Energy, and Flow Battery. The Flow Products segment focuses on products for distributed generation (micro CHP), domestic boilers and load shifting. The Flow Energy segment is in the energy supply business, while Flow Battery provides compressed air energy storage products.
Prior to 2015, Flowgroup (formerly Energetix) had been focused on commercialising its electricity generating Flow boiler. The group now believes it is in a position to be a successful energy services business.
Flowgroup said that one of the biggest barriers to growth for any small energy supplier is the need to place relatively large amounts of collateral with wholesale providers when taking on a new energy customer, tying up significant amounts of cash. To allow Flow Energy to grow in a less cash-intensive way, the company signed an agreement with Shell Energy Europe for access to wholesale energy on extended credit terms and without the requirement for cash security deposits.
In May 2015, the company raised £21.3 million to develop a range of boilers to increase the addressable market, upgrade systems, and processes, and grow the supply chain.
The company delivered growth in Flow Energy from 2015, and while it is still making a loss, the growth in energy customers reducing costs on a per customer basis, helping the company progress towards profitability.
The company forecasts that it has enough resources to operate for at least the next 12 months, continuing to develop the energy services and energy supply businesses, and taking the boiler from initial installations through to increasing sales during 2017, and profitability.
The company highlights the following as the main business risks it faces: availability of adequate funding; product performance, with the inherent risks of introducing any new product to market; market acceptance of the Flow boiler; market share of Flow Energy.
Proton Power Systems
Proton Power Systems designs, develops, manufactures, and tests fuel cells and fuel cell hybrid systems, as well as the related technical components. The company offers UPS and solar battery storage products through its subsidiary, Proton Motor Fuel Cell GmbH. Its production facilities are located in Germany.
Proton Power System’s objective is to establish a volume manufacturing facility based upon solid sales orders to enable it to achieve an economically viable unit cost for its fuel cell hybrid systems. The company will invest in increased operational and sales infrastructure. The advanced stage of commercialisation of its technology should, the company claims, allow it to establish itself as a leading global fuel cell system provider.
A reduction in sales in 2015 was a result of phasing of its order to Siemens within the year. The company said that it has won orders to date of £1.8 million to be delivered in 2016. The company secured further loan funding in 2015 of €7.22 million from Falih Nahab, and it received €109 000 of grant funding from the German government.
According to the auditors of the company’s 2015 annual report, the company is “dependent on the continuing support of Mr Falih Nahab in order to meet its day-to-day working capital commitments. Due to the lack of available financial information, the directors are unable to confirm that Falih Nahab has the ability to provide such support. This ... indicates the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the ... company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”
Ballard Power Systems
Ballard Power Systems designs, develops, manufactures, sells, and services fuel cells. The company is focused on its power product markets of heavy-duty motive, portable power, material handling, and telecom back up power. It offers products in three product classes: fuel cell stacks; fuel cell modules; and fuel cell systems.
Revenue has remained stable over the last five years, while the company has made steady progress towards profitability.
In July 2016, Ballard signed a number of agreements in China. These included an agreement with Guangdong Nation Synergy Hydrogen Power Technology, part of the Synergy Group, to establish fuel cell production in Yunfu, Guangdong Province. It also signed a strategic collaboration framework with Zhongshan Broad-Ocean Motor that included a $28.3 million equity investment in Ballard by Broad Ocean.
In early 2016, Ballard implemented a cost reduction initiative, primarily focused on reducing the operating cost base associated with its methanol fuelled telecom backup power activities. The company reduced staffing levels by 50 to 410, and announced the closure of a contract manufacturing facility in Tijuana, Mexico. Ballard said that during 2016, it expected revenues to rise and gross margins to improve.