Thursday, November 8, 2007
Ballard released the announcement making the sale of their 'automotive assets' [assets refer not only to the technology but to test equipment, related office equipment, and my favorite, 113 employees] to both Daimler and Ford who will jointly form a new company just for automotive fuel cell development.
Considering that Ballard's two year run under John Sheridan has featured a continuous departure from all things automotive, this just represents a final housekeeping move, allowing Ballard to get along with the business at hand, primarily borderline commercial forklift and backup stacks, and near market residential cogen and bus. The rumor stemming from a German news report picked up by Reuters over the weekend, the ensuing discussion, and final announcement along with Ballard's 3rd q earnings report led to some stock fluctuation:
What is interesting is that the biggest move was due to the rumor, not the facts, but who am I to judge.
During the conference call this morning with Ballard principals, everyone seemed relaxed and confident, as if a huge weight had been lifted off them, like superman lifting a car... But they did say that Ballard instigated the discussions. The new company will essentially stay put in suburban Burnaby, and with Ballard keeping a 20% investment in the new company, there will be plenty of IP exchange. Although its possible that the Daimler (50.1%) and Ford (30%) controlled entity could eventually compete in the bus market with Ballard, Ballard is not concerned, and shouldn't considering its lead there and the comparative market sizes (the bus market is squat compared to the far off potential automotive market).
The rational for treating the automotive development as a different animal is primarily that the other markets have received, and continue to receive considerable government funding and support, making it easier to sell a stack at a profit because the end product can be sold at far above market value due to subsidies.
So - good for Ballard, and what was Daimler going to do with all the free time it got from dumping Chrysler anyway?