Thursday, March 03, 2011

Cleantech Stocks Q&A with Josh Levine of the MicroCap Investor Newsletter

In Environment of Rising Oil Prices, Levine Sees Major Investment Opportunities in Cleantech   
New York, NY, Point Roberts WA, March 2, 2011 –, an investor research portal specializing in sector investing including cleantech presents a Q&A with Josh Levine of the MicroCap Investor newsletter, discussing why cleantech's outlook is excellent for both the short and longer term. Josh discusses his research model for identifying the best pure plays within the sector. Interview:   
Josh, with oil prices surging above $100, cleantech is getting a lot more attention again from Wall Street and independent investors. I know you look at the long term investment picture, so what do you think is driving cleantech and what is your outlook for opportunities in this sector?  
A: Josh Levine, MicroCap Investor  
Let's first qualify what is meant by the term cleantech. Cleantech is often used interchangeably with green technologies and alternative energy, but it seems to be the one that's emerged to encompass all these things. Cleantech essentially covers technologies that are more energy-efficient than conventional technologies and offer more environmentally-friendly alternatives to fossil-fuel-driven energy applications.  
Broadly speaking, the world is always moving towards more efficient use of resources. Year after year and decade after decade, we manage to get more out of a given amount of resources. The first industrial revolution was powered by coal and though it provided tremendous gains in production, the pollution negatively impacted the quality of life and health of millions of people. 
In the past century, while coal continued to have a prominent role, oil reigned as the fuel of choice because its energy density is so high, it was incredibly abundant, and it's easy to transport. The downside is that the oil supply is finite and that the burning of it leaves an undesirable byproduct. Today, it's becoming increasingly more costly to find and produce new oil -- and that's critical in the energy equation. 
This brings us to cleantech opportunities, which are only just emerging after very long periods of incubation in research and development. What's happening today is a huge shift in the consciousness of governments, corporations and consumers. Of course lots of people are talking about energy efficiency, but there are also many now taking action on all levels.  
Several things are driving this shift toward cleantech including climate change, the fear of running out of global oil supplies, rising world population and the limits of natural resources, higher energy costs, and environmental concerns. And then there's the surging demand from China. That's a pretty powerful mix. And when we combine these forces with the progress being made in new energy technologies, investors have a remarkable opportunity for profits. 
The first electric cars are hitting the road this year after several years of hybrids, and the prospects for broad adoption over the next several years are very promising. With this comes the need for infrastructure to support car charging and that will spawn huge investments in the electric grid and networks to support these new vehicles around the U.S. and all over the world. 
Of course solar and wind will continue to grow as their costs approach parity with conventional energy and they address important niches in the energy sphere. Additionally, there are so many other technologies that are part of the cleantech ecosystem and critical to the development of these markets, including batteries, fuel cells, inverters, demand response and energy management systems, ultracapacitors, superconductor cables and so much more.

To succeed in cleantech, investors really need to stay focused on the bigger picture and to be patient. The energy space moves far slower than, for example, the IT world, so developments unfold at a different rate. But once these technologies start gaining market traction, the valuations of the leading small innovative cleantech companies will generate fantastic returns for investors who got an early start. 
You recently just added a new cleantech stock to your portfolio. Can you give us some insight as to what qualified this particular stock based on your investing model?  
A: Josh Levine, MicroCap Investor  
My latest recommendation in unusual company which has developed and commercialized environmentally safe alternatives to plastics used for food containers, utensils, product wraps, as well as a wide range of parts in autos and many other things. Importantly, it meets all of my most important criteria for a great microcap investment. 
As a cleantech play, this company's biodegradeable and completely safe products can replace petroleum-based polypropylene packaging. The result is less use of oil and a better outcome for the environment. It's a strong proposition. 
It's a classic microcap story with all of the fundamentals in place for soaring growth -- a unique technology platform that's been validated by major customers worldwide, an experienced and proven management team, and powerful market drivers bolstered by increasing demand. 
This company is addressing markets representing annual sales in the tens of billions of dollars, it has proven technology and products that are being rapidly adopted by large corporate customers, it has manufacturing capacity to scale several times current production, and its products are already on parity with polypropylene now that oil prices are north of $100.  
In 2010, sales revenue for this company was $6.3 million, a 133% increase versus 2009, and projected revenue for the 2011 full year is between $24 million and $32 million -- a whopping 300% to 400% increase over 2010! 
With all this going for it, this company is still valued well below $100 million. That's the kind of microcap opportunity I absolutely love!
With all the government incentives and funding from this administration, how much of a role does government play for you when you look at a sector or an individual stock?    
A: Josh Levine, MicroCap Investor  
First, it's important to point out that the oil and nuclear industries have enjoyed massive government subsidies forever. So it's totally ridiculous when some folks get all bent out of shape and complain about the unfair advantages for renewable energy.  
Now, as for the role government plays, I would say that it is a factor on the sector level, especially as it concerns solar subsidies in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. But as we've seen, it's tough to bet on companies when from year to year you don't know what's going to happen regarding tax credits and other such things.  
On the other hand, government R&D grants serve a great purpose for small companies since these funds essentially cover the costs for specific projects and enable firms with limited resources to explore technologies that they may otherwise have to put on the back burner. 
There is one cleantech company in the MicroCap Investor portfolio that has benefitted considerably from government grants and the nice thing for shareholders is that any value created by these projects stays with the company. 
On a final note, the government's role in basic scientific research has always been very fundamental for U.S. economic growth and that's one area that the Feds should continue to focus on. This is especially vital for energy technologies since venture capitalists and other investors don't have the patience or staying power required to take these technologies from lab to market.
Within cleantech there are a lot of sub-sectors from smart grid to solar to wind to energy efficiency and others; what are you focusing on and why?     
A: Josh Levine, MicroCap Investor  
All of the above, but I'm especially looking at companies that solve big problems with elegant and cost-efficient solutions. There's got to be a powerful value proposition, adoption by key customers, multi-billion dollar markets, and fast-growing demand on a global scale. 
There are wonderful opportunities in every segment of cleantech, but at the small company level an investor really needs to understand the dynamics of technologies and markets, not to mention to be able to evaluate management teams. 
In the MicroCap Investor portfolio the cleantech companies are involved in energy storage, LED and other advanced lighting, equipment for large-scale solar projects, bioplastics, technologies for increasing the efficiency of the energy grid, and more. 
I'm focusing on these companies because they could deliver profits of 100% to 1,000% over the next several years. In fact, in 2009 I sold our position in demand response company EnerNOC (ENOC) for a 256% profit after only 13 months in the stock. And I recently sold half of our position in a current cleantech holding to capture a 138% profit -- and that's just a small taste of what's ahead.
What percentage of your portfolio is in the cleantech space currently and are you looking to add more companies in the space over this year?    
A: Josh Levine, MicroCap Investor 
About one-third of the MicroCap Investor portfolio is devoted to cleantech companies, and I've got several top prospects in my sights. It's tough to predict, but I suspect I'll be adding at least a couple of more cleantech plays to our portfolio this year.  
It's really a matter of quality, not quantity, and I am extremely bullish on the current group we have today. Still, cleantech is a ripe sector and it will yield tremendous opportunities year after year for a very long time. Every growth-oriented investor should make sure a healthy portion of his or her equities portfolio is allocated to cleantech.
Josh Levine’s MicroCap Investor
Levine's MicroCap Investor delves deep into the world of small stocks to identify big winners, targeting innovative companies on the path of the new and revolutionary.
The strategy for MicroCap Investor is simple: to focus on small, innovative companies representing the best pure plays in the fast-growing waves of change in biotechnology, cleantech, and emerging IT. 
About Josh Levine
Levine has 25 years of senior-level experience in analyzing technology trends and investing in top-performing micro- and small-cap stocks. He excels at assessing management teams and evaluating new innovations and their impact on corporate valuations. 
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