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Feb 25, 2021

Nikola posts narrower-than-expected loss, no fuel network update

Brendan Caldwell discusses Nikola

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Nikola Corp. reported a narrower-than-expected loss for its latest quarter but kept investors guessing about a partner for its hydrogen-fueling network after missing a self-imposed year-end deadline.

The startup, whose market value once briefly topped Ford Motor Co.’s though it has yet to build a vehicle, posted an adjusted loss Thursday of 17 cents a share in the fourth quarter, compared with analysts’ consensus estimate for a 24 cents loss and a 16 cents loss in the year-earlier period.

Nikola provided no update of its search for a promised partner to help it develop an ambitious plan for as many as 700 hydrogen fueling stations in the U.S. It originally promised to find another company to help build out that network by the end of 2020. But the company said it remained on track to hit other milestones as it inches toward production of clean-energy semi trucks.

“In the fourth quarter of 2020, Nikola made the necessary changes to refocus and realign,” Mark Russell, Nikola’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. He noted the startup’s scaled-down agreement with General Motors Co. and cancellation of its electric-powered garbage truck and powersports vehicle programs.

Nikola shares rose as much as 5 per cent in after-hours trading following the release. Earlier the stock closed down 6.8 per cent to US$19.72.

The Phoenix-based company is one of a number of newer and legacy automakers developing clean-energy commercial vehicles and betting on fuel cells as a viable fuel for long-distance transportation. While it is also working on battery-electric big rigs, Nikola’s main focus is hydrogen-powered fuel-cell trucks, a nascent field with competition from Toyota Motor Corp., Hyundai Motor Co. and and its own supplier, GM.

Earlier this week, the startup said a long-range version of its zero-emission semi will get as much as 900 miles on a tank of hydrogen when it debuts in 2024.