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Lighting Company Stocks, A Post Mini-Series – Should We Be Looking at Them More?

You know, there is an interesting aspect of the lighting industries as a whole that really mystifies me:  lighting company stocks.  We hear every day about how the Dow is doing, and Cramer yells and screams about Alcatel-Lucent doing this-that-or-the-other, but no one’s out there screaming about how Barco’s stock is doing (EBR:BAR) or how Chung-Hwa Picture Tubes LTD (TPE:2475) is doing lately.

Something you should be asking yourself is “really, who cares, Jim?”
(honestly, I ask myself that all the time because I can be one rambling mopho)

Well, you should care, this is your money in these industries!

Money and markets in the last few years’ American economy should go to prove how important they really are.  Our industries buy and sell each other, there are hostile takeovers in companies, and it’s all international – Barco NV (a Belgian company) owns the American company High End Systems, for example.  How much do you know about the lighting industries’ companies?  It’s kind of an amazing thing to watch – if you have something like Google Finance (which is a web stock tracker and free, duh), you can see the graphs of the stock price and see why stuff is happening, in the news articles there on the page.  Yahoo also has one – finance.yahoo.com – which is just fine too.

Here’s the other thing – and I’m speaking primarily to the college-age and high school-age people who read JimOnLight.com…

Folks, we live in a capital-driven society.  Money is what makes the world go ’round, and just like anything else, you can use it better if you read the directions, per se.  You wouldn’t operate a firearm without some instruction, right?  Would you use a woodchopper without at least glancing at the manual?  The bottom line is – kids, you’re coming into your own right directly into an economy and a market that is pretty competitive right now.  Reading into things like the markets regarding lighting can help find work.  You never know when a certain industry has a boom, like a pharmacy company for example, and they start throwing a lot of conference/convention things.  Somebody has to provide lighting and production for those events.  As my new and really cool friend Mark Hetrick from San Francisco says (and I’m paraphrasing here, Mark, I could never even pretent to repeat your genius):

“There’s always something going on in San Francisco.  You can come here and work across the gamut of entertainment lighting simply depending on what’s going on in the market.”

This is why it might just be fun to pay attention to the markets.  Isn’t that so ridiculously logical?!

Let’s start out by looking at a few stock captures from my account at Google Finance:

Right now, it looks like Barco is doing fine – this graph shows their stock price up 2.4% at the time of this capture, at $56 bucks a share.  Something that is a bit worrying to me is a comment I read in an article about Barco’s digital projector business doing unbelievably well – the comment regards their lighting business:

Barco NV, the Belgian maker of digital cinema projectors, reported the highest second-half profit in at least 10 years after ramping up production capacity and will pay a dividend for the first time in three years.

Second-half net income was 35.2 million euros ($48 million) compared with a net loss of 53.8 million euros a year earlier, the Kortrijk, Belgium-based company said today in a statement. Sales surged 61 percent to 528.8 million euros, beating the 460 million-euro average of three analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Barco plans to pay a dividend of 1 euro a share.

With fourth-quarter orders slowing to 231 million euros from a peak of 298.9 million euros in the second quarter, the surging shipments of cinema projectors depleted Barco’s order backlog to a nine-month low of 426.9 million euros. Barco, whose lighting and digital-billboard business was unprofitable last year, said it plans to “regroup and recombine” some operating divisions, details of which will be announced on Feb. 18.

Okay, hmm.  Now I am very curious to hear what the news is here.

Let’s take a look at the company developing the ESL incandescent lamp replacement – Vu1 Corporation:

Vu1 Corporation is the company that’s putting out what they claim as the “fully functional replacement for the incandescent light bulb.”  Folks, that’s a pretty big deal thing to say – CFLs sure aren’t a great replacement for the incandescent lamp, and LED A-lamp replacements aren’t there yet either.  Vu1 has a patent on their ESL technology (which means Electron Stimulated Luminescenceâ„¢), but we’re still waiting on the lamps to ship.  I ordered mine almost a month ago, but I’ve not heard anything yet.

My guess is when that thing hits the market, if the technology is as good as they say, that stock is gonna freaking explode.  An incandescent replacement lamp?  Amazing.  World, I’m guessing that we need to get ready.  I’ve been wrong before (ask my ex-wife or ex-girlfriends), but I’m thinking that this could be huge.

A related and mind-blowing market is the solar market.  Holy, holy, holy crap.  The market is in a bit of an upswing – and there are a lot of companies playing in that market.  Let’s look at three companies – First Solar, Trina Solar LTD, and SunPower Corporation.

First, let’s look at First Solar – their stock is kicking some major butt right now, at $168.94 per share:

Great, right?  Well, if you’re an investor, then heck yes it’s good!  However, if you look into the news, there are some weird signs going on.  For example lately, a bunch of people have bought the option called a “put” on First Solar – a “put” option is basically a bet that the stock will decrease in value, but you then have the right to sell it at a locked in price.  It’s so freaking weird and confusing.  It generally means that people are expecting that stock to decrease in price.  Also, there’s a news article out there that says some analysts from Credit Agricole “downgraded” the First Solar stock from an “outperform” rating to an “underperform” rating.

What in the f$@# does that mean?!  Does that means something bad?  Is it something good?  To completely contradict all of that news, here’s an article about how First Solar is getting some love from the Obama Administration through their exchange-traded fund (ETF) called the Guggenheim Solar ETF.  Oh, and First Solar’s fourth quarter earnings are expected to be strong.  News is news.  It’s all information to absorb and analyze.

Now, here’s Trina Solar Limited‘s performance:

Trina Solar is doing pretty well for itself lately, it’s up a buck and a half or so over the last week.  There are news stories about oversupply threatening solar profits, for example; an analyst here says that Trina Solar stock is a good short term investment; and this guy says that Trina Solar stock is something to put in your portfolio, with a price target of $41 bucks a share.

The last in the solar category we’ll look at is the stock activity of SunPower Corporation:

This is a weird one.  Don’t get me wrong, over the last three months, this company’s stock is doing good!  It’s up almost three bucks over the three month look, and it’s showing that solar is earning despite the reports that solar demand has been exaggerated (which isn’t true or false).  But here’s a market report saying that SunPower is trading at about the middle of its high and low.  And another “however,” here’s a report saying that as of February 11 (which was last Friday), SunPower’s stock was up 4% because of California’s demand for more solar deployment.

News is a weird animal, isn’t it?  Stocks are a weird animal, too!  I find it very easy to track a company’s growth along with the reports that come out – and the news actually makes a lot more sense when we see how the lighting companies out there are competing with each other.

In the next post in the series, we’re gonna look at semiconductor stocks – you know these as LED companies like Cree and Lighting Science Group.

Stay tuned!

Stock Market – Lighting Edition

Something hilarious happened to me last week – well, hilarious to me.  I was watching the news early in the morning, and as I flipped through the various new sources it was literally “the stock market” this, and “the blue chips” that, and “Main street took another hit today.”  Oh – and JP Morgan irked the United States a few weeks ago when it unveiled its plans for high pay and big bonuses.  Again.

I could not help but thinking that no one talks about lighting industries’ stocks.  We provide the world with the ability to light up the darkness – we bring innovation to innovation.  While people in our industry lose their jobs one after the other and stimulus money gets tossed into projects across the nation, don’t you wonder how the companies IN our industry are doing?

I captured some 90-day stock market charts last week for a handful of companies in the lighting markets.  Obviously this is not an exhaustive list – if there are stocks you follow that you think I should be following, will you either post a comment below or send me a comment through the contact form?  Pretty please?

Okay, let’s start out with Barco (Barco NV – BAR):

On January 26, 2010, Barco’s stock closed out at $28.94 per share, down 47 cents (or -1.6%).  Barco’s market cap is $369.35 million – “market cap” or market capitalization is a number that represents a corporation’s outstanding number of shares multiplied by their price.  What this means is that Barco has 12,760,000 shares of stock, each valued at around $28.94 each.  Multiply $28.94 X 12,760,000 and you get around $369,350,000, their current market cap.

Something that strikes me as a bit sad, whether it is related or not, is when you put news against the market reports.  For example, look at their stock price around the beginning of December, right when they laid off a bunch of High End Systems workers.


Look at Lighting Science Group – a company that engineers and makes LED products (Lighting Science Group Corporation – LSGC):

LSGC’s stock as of 1/26 was at 88 cents per share, with 30,460,000 shares outstanding – giving LSGC a market cap of $25,890,000 (remember, shares X cost = market cap).  That share cost was up 3 cents (or 3.53%).  For those of you following the news, LSGC announced at the beginning of the month that they were taking on Zachary Gibler, Carlos Gutierrez, Michael Kempner, Joe Montana and Michael Moseley to their board of directors.  You might recognize Carlos Guitierrez as a CNBC news contributor and Commerce Secretary under George W. Bush.  And yes, Joe Montana is THE Joe Montana, the football guy.

LSGC just this last week announced that they were commencing a rights offering for up to about 25 million Series D shares of non-convertible preferred stock (and warrants), which represents the right to purchase up to about 25 million shares of common stock.  All of these terms are extremely confusing to people (like myself) who don’t follow the market nose first.  LSGC’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings on this news are here.

You might be asking yourself, “What on earth are “Series D Non-Convertible Stocks?”  Preferred stocks are debt instruments (like all stocks) that have a higher payout priority than common stocks.  This means that dividends must be paid to preferred stock holders first before common stock dividend payouts.  In the case of these stocks, the holders don’t have the option to convert them to common stocks, and preferred stocks normally don’t have voting rights.  It’s all very complicated in my humble opinion.


Now look at General Electric (General Electric Company, GE):

GE has not had that great of a time lately as far as the stock market is concerned.  As of January 26, their stock was down 6 cents at $16.29, and they were having one of the worst periods in their almost 120 year history.  GE lost its AAA credit rating last year, and its GE Capital division ain’t doing so well – their commercial real estate division is getting hammered with vacancies and all that kind of real estate crap.  GE is a HUGE company though – their market share is 173.48 billion – that’s $173,480,000,000 – with 10,650,000,000 shares outstanding at about $16.29 a share.  That’s a lot of zeros.


Let’s move on to a company that people are hoping will do some amazing things with their Electron-Stimulated Luminescence technology, or ESL – the VU1 Corporation (VUOC):

VU1 is actually up 5 cents from the time I polled these numbers – but as of January 26 it was at $0.49 a share, with almost 86 million shares outstanding.  Their market cap was $42,050,000 approximately, and they were down about a dime a share last quarter.  The ESL technology is interesting, and on the VU1 blog there is talk of progress on an ESL replacement for the typical fluorescent tube.


Ok, now look at semiconductor manufacturer Cree, Inc (CREE):

Cree is having a great time right now – their stock price is up over 10 bucks since October 2009, and set a new record for the company’s stock prices on January 19, 2010.  They’re actually down 2 bucks since January 26 when I pulled this report, but they’re still kicking some tail.  With 106 million shares at around 60 bucks is giving Cree a market cap of 6.31 billion dollars – $6,310,000,000.  I love to actually type out the digits, it really gives you perspective.

I wish I had a few extra buckaroos to invest, because I’d probably toss some of it into Cree stock.  Analysts are flipping out over Cree’s prices and growth.  I hope their growth spawns new and excellent technologies that are positive advancements towards our growth as an industry and not just the same old stuff for more money.

Some news I did not expect to hear lately was the agreement that one of their competitors Arrow Electronics signed with Cree to provide Arrow’s customers with Cree power products (Silicon Carbide JBS).  Go, Cree!


The last company I want to actually talk about is Philips (Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV – PHG):

From when I pulled this report, Philips’ stock is down a buck or so per share.  Philips is another enormous company with so many divisions – they have almost a billion shares of stock outstanding – 927,460,000 shares.  Their market cap (927.46 million shares at around 30 bucks a share) is $29.17 billion dollars.  Huge.

Philips is a monster in the LED business, and if you’re in the lighting industry you’ve heard of their LumiLED products.  TIME Magazine gave Philips the honor of calling their LED replacement lamp as one of the best inventions of 2009, and people rave about their other product lines – LED wash fixtures, high output LEDs, and their various lines of consumer non-LED products, including incandescent and fluorescent products.  They’re an industry leader.


None of this stuff is easy to understand, and believe me – I’m a lighting designer, not a market analyst.  But it doesn’t take a Merrill Lynch quant to break down the major components into understandable pieces.  I kinda look at it like this – when more people understand what is going on with a subject, it becomes that much more difficult for insiders in that industry to screw the public over.  If I can help make that happen even a little bit, then we have collectively made an investment in our future and success.

I’m not gonna talk about the reports below, but they’re just graphs of some other companies’ stocks that I follow.  If you have suggestions of companies I should watch, drop me a line or comment below, will ya?

Tatsuta Electric Wire and Cable – HOLY CRAP – $14.15 billion dollar market cap (for only 65 million shares), and their stock is at $217 a SHARE!

Chung Wa Picture Tubes:

Molex Inc – everybody knows Molex, right?

Barco, What’s the Deal with High End Systems?

barco_quote

The giant lighting and projector company Barco has been doing really, really well – they bought High End Systems, they’re always getting contracts and selling lots of their gear.  Check out some stock info – I took some captures of my stock tracker.

Year to Date:

barco-year-to-date

Last Three Months:

barco-3-months

Barco’s stock is sitting at $33.56 a share – up $0.27, or 0.81% today.  I am always reading news stories about how Barco has created some new partnership, released some new product for touring video, or presented some new display technology and made yet a new partnership.

Why, if all of this stuff is going on, are High End Systems personnel getting laid off?  There are a lot of really good people who have been let go from High End Systems by Barco – it is business, I understand, don’t get me wrong.  But what are you doing with High End Systems?

The question is fairly innocuous and certainly isn’t directed to offend, but High End Systems is a brand that has been a huge part of the lighting industries for decades – and there is little to no information about what is going on with HES.  The High End Systems website hasn’t been updated in months, and this looks bad.  What is going on here?  At least be up front about what’s going down.

Barco, whatever is going to happen with High End Systems is obviously up to you.  I, as someone who has a lifetime of respect for the lighting industries, High End Systems, and your brand as well, is really hoping that some of that respect is paid to a company (and its workers) that has been a major part of the industries for a long time.