Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE)This company, formerly known as Pickens Fuels, was founded by oil legend T. Boone Pickens. Though he made his fortune in crude oil, he's become much more bullish on natural gas in recent years, especially as a transportation fuel source. He currently controls about 4.7 million shares (or 7%) of the company, so he's got an obvious agenda. And his vision has not yet delivered the shareholder returns he had hoped. Even though Clean Energy Fuels is the largest operator of natural gas filling stations (with almost 250 at last count), bottom-line results haven't added up. The company has never generated positive free cash flow and has had to repeatedly sell more stock to raise capital in order to extend the filling station network.
Yet that network of filling stations may have finally reached critical mass. The company is expected to book quarterly GAAP profits by the middle of next year. Fuel sales shot up 60% in 2010 (to $212 million) and should top $350 million by next year. At a $500 million run rate, the company thinks it would generate solid levels of profitability.
Of course, more natural-gas-fueled cars on the road would instantly change the company's trajectory. And help may be on the way. Honda (HMC) already sells a natural-gas-powered Civic; GM (GM) is launching a line of pick-up trucks powered by CNG (compressed natural gas), and Ford's (F) Transit Connect minivan will soon be available in a similar configuration. European automakers, including Fiat, already sell natural-gas-powered cars in their home region.
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