Do Not Put Ocean Power Technologies Stock in Your 401k

For those of you who haven’t heard Ocean Power Technologies (NASDAQ:OPTT) and OPTT stock, it is a renewable energy company that provides an uninterruptible power supply by harvesting energy from the waves.

Do Not Put OPTT Stock in Your 401k

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But, the problem with wave energy is that it’s a lot more expensive than wind and solar. Furthermore, waves tend to destroy things that get in the way — and as a result, the renewable energy source has been slow to gain acceptance.

The company was founded in 1984. According to its 10-K, the company’s main product, the PB3 PowerBuoy, “features a unique onboard power take-off (“PTO”) system, which incorporates both energy storage and energy management and control systems. The PB3 generates a nominal name-plated capacity rating of up to 3 kilowatts (“kW”) of peak power during recharging of the onboard batteries.”

 Sounds promising enough.

However, before you buy some of its stock for your 401k or some other tax-advantaged account, you first might want to consider why this is a terrible idea.

35 Years and Little to Show for It

In the 12 months ended April 30, 2019, OPTT had revenues of $632,000 and an operating loss of $12.3 million. The year before, it had $511,000 in revenue and an operating loss of $11.56 million.

That means for every dollar of revenue generated over the past two years, it’s lost between $19-$22 from its operations. That makes some of the unicorns going public in the last couple of years look downright fiscally conservative by comparison.

I like to see what my InvestorPlace colleagues have to say about the stock I’m writing about. It gives me an idea of what I’m looking at. So, with OPTT stock trading at 83 cents as I write this, it seems pretty clear Ocean Power Technologies is not a stock to stick in a drawer and forget about it.

That said, it still could be a speculative investor’s next big score — so I’ll carry on.

A Long History of Losing Money

My InvestorPlace colleague Ian Bezek took a look at OPTT stock in April of last year. He concluded that at $3, it might be a bet worth taking for highly speculative investors, but when it came to long-term investors, it was off-limits.

Since its founding, OPTT has racked up more than $200 million of debt. That’s a huge number for a company with a market cap of just around $15 million, even after the latest offering of Ocean Power Technologies stock,” Bezek wrote in April.

To the uneducated investor, OPTT’s second-quarter results show no debt. So, how could it have racked up more than $200 million in debt?

Well, it hasn’t. My colleague was stating that a company’s capital comes from one bucket, whether it’s debt or equity. In Ocean Power’s case, the accumulated deficit of $216 million has been covered over by the issuance of lots of shares.

Can you say, “dilution?”

At the end of October 2019, OPTT had 6.5 million shares outstanding. Five years earlier, the company finished fiscal 2014 with 18.3 million shares nearly three times more than today’s total. To accomplish this mathematical feat — it definitely did not have the money to buy back its shares — it carried out a 1-for-20 split in March of last year.

So, this means that OPTT issued approximately 112 million shares (6.5 million multiplied by 20) between April 2015 (fiscal year-end) and the end of October.

Who bought all of these shares? That’s a good question. But, a better question is why?

In October 2009, OPTT stock made the Globe & Mail’s Stars and Dogs of the Week column — as a star.

For millions of years, ocean waves have been crashing ashore, their magnificent whitecaps and natural rhythms giving rise to a perplexing question: How exactly can we make money off of this? Ocean Power has the answer: Its offshore ‘PowerBuoys’ harness wave power to generate electricity. The company signed an engineering deal with Lockheed Martin, giving the stock a charge,” the Globe stated at the time.

OPTT jumped 63% on the news, but it’s been downhill ever since.

The Bottom Line on OPTT Stock

Ocean Power Technologies went public in April 2007, raising $90.1 million in net proceeds. It rode that cash until 2013, when it started to issue shares to raise capital to stay afloat. It most recently raised $15 million in 2019 to fund operations.

At this point, issuing stock is the only hope it has. Nobody in their right mind would lend the company money.

Yes, I think it’s great that it’s pursuing renewable energy. But it’s been 35 years without anything to show for it, so I think it’s time it finds a buyer for its technology.

Is the company worth more than 83 cents to a strategic buyer? I couldn’t tell you. What I do know is that if you’re making a bet that it is worth more, I recommend you don’t put OPTT stock in anything but a taxable account.

At the time of this writing Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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