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A123 Systems: Is It All Over?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's hard to not be reminded of bankrupt lithium ion battery maker Ener1 when reviewing the latest bad news from its peer A123 Systems (AONE).

In the months leading up to the bankruptcy of Ener1, the company began talking down its relationship with flailing electric car maker Think Global and talking about its opportunity in the energy grid storage business. Ener1 wrote off its investment in Think, admitted that the electric car business simply couldn't be profitable for lithium ion battery companies any time soon, and said energy grid storage was the way to go.

Ener1's ambitious CEO Charles Gassenheimer was shortly thereafter ousted.

On Thursday after the close, A123 Systems announced that it was writing off its investment in flailing electric car maker Fisker, the ballast of its growth story until now. In recent weeks, A123 CEO David Vieau has also been talking up the opportunity in the energy grid storage market.

When A123 announced earlier on Thursday that it had won a contract with India's Tata to supply batteries for electric buses, TheStreet noted it would have been nice if the company also released a date for its earnings, and that any investor who bought into the 6% rally on the Tata deal should expect a prompt decline once A123 missed on revenue yet again.

It was even worse than that, though, when A123 pre-reported on Thursday after the close.

A123 missed by a wide mark in fourth-quarter revenue, guided for a 2012 revenue mid-point short of the Wall Street consensus, revealed warranty charges for required fixes of previously shipped battery packs, and higher scrap rates in the quarter, all of which led to a wider-than-expected loss. Worse yet, the company said it had to delay the filing of its annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which adds an additional layer of risk.

A123 is now talking about a strategy in which no customer represents more than 15% of its sales, moving away from the over-reliance on Fisker. Yet Ener1 wasn't able to diversity away from Think after that disaster became too obvious to ignore.
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