Commodities update: Ballard Power hit with two downgrades, fuel stocks wobble
Ballard Power Systems Inc., a hydrogen cell producer in global expansion mode, is considering adding debt to its balance sheet for the first time in years for acquisitions given current cheap funding costs.
“If we go into the market again to raise more capital, particularly for an M&A opportunity, absolutely the debt markets would be something we would prioritize,” Chief Financial Officer Tony Guglielmin said in an interview, adding that demand for green-labeled securities is particularly strong. “Because we fit squarely in the green area, we could access that market and it’s very attractive right now in terms of pricing.”
Ballard Power, which provides fuel cells for buses, commercial trucks, trains, marine vessels, passenger cars and forklifts gets over 95 per cent of its revenues in North America, Europe and China. The Metro Vancouver-based firm, which last year raised US$700 million in the equity markets, is looking for potential acquisitions mostly in Europe, where there are “handful of very strong companies, some of them in different parts of the value chain,” Guglielmin said.
“We do have a very active pipeline and we’re looking at a number of M&A opportunities,” he said, adding that most of the cash raised last year is for investing in the business and acquisitions, while around US$150 million will finance operations before the company reaches a cash flow break-even, he said.
Regarding investment plans, the company is considering locating some of its research and development activities in China and a manufacturing facility in Europe, Guglielmin said. Also, it expects hydrogen industry activity to pick up in North America.
Access to funding for the company’s plans is better than ever. “In the last 12 months there’s been an absolute sea change in investor interest in Ballard Power and in the fuel cell and more broadly in the hydrogen industry,” said Guglielmin. Ballard’s stock is the second best performer in the Canada’s S&P/TSX Composite Index with a return of more than 222 per cent in the past year.
“If we were to look at the debt market, I would suggest it would likely be in North America, likely in U.S. dollars,” he said, though they likely will also consider the Canadian dollar market. When it comes to the type of instrument, green convertible bonds -- a type of security already sold by rival Plug Power Inc. -- is at the “top of the list.”