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'Green' Companies: Ideas Over Investments

'Green tech' companies such as FuelCell Energy are still more about hype than potential.

DANBURY, Conn. (TheStreet) -- Waiting for "green" companies to produce a profit is like expecting Wall Street to change its ways -- it seems like it will never happen.

Companies that deal in green technology have long offered phenomenal projections, but that hasn't translated into gains for investors. Regardless, analysts are quick to tout the potential and assign lofty price targets, translating into "buy" ratings.

FuelCell Energy

(FCEL) - Get Report

, based in Danbury, Conn., is riding a wave of hype. The company makes fuel-cell power plants that use hydrocarbon fuels like natural gas and biogas to produce electricity. That's a noble and necessary goal since coal- and oil-fired plants lead to climate change. Still, investors may be best served to wait until FuelCell Energy generates sustainable profits.

The company has putrid performance figures. With a profit margin of minus 76% and a return on equity of minus 183%, FuelCell Energy is hemorrhaging money mainly because the company can't seem to generate enough revenue to cover costs.

Analysts project earnings growth of 10% for the year ending Oct. 31, and an expansion of 85% next year. Those numbers look tantalizing. But even with those increases, FuelCell Energy is still projected to suffer net losses in both years.

Other valuation metrics also make the stock look expensive. The company's price-to-book ratio stands at 10.2, compared with the industry average of 3.

Over the past year, FuelCell Energy's stock has dropped 44%, while the

Russell 2000

has gained 26%. The shares topped $50 a decade ago. They now trade for about $2.

About 64% of FuelCell Energy's revenue comes from South Korea, which is embroiled in a contentious feud with its neighbor to the north. The tensions from this region serve as a cause to be wary of businesses with exposure to the region since an escalating conflict would significantly sap demand.

Standard & Poor's

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said yesterday that it will keep South Korea's sovereign-debt rating unchanged as the tensions are within expected levels, but if the feud becomes something more, which is always a concern when dealing with the erratic Kim Jong-Il, that could change.

FuelCell Energy opens investors to too many risks to justify its inclusion in a portfolio with an average-risk tolerance or below. The company needs to turn a profit and see its primary market settle down before it's a good bet.

-- Reported by David MacDougall in Boston.


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Prior to joining TheStreet Ratings, David MacDougall was an analyst at Cambridge Associates, an investment consulting firm, where he worked with private equity and venture capital funds. He graduated cum laude from Northeastern University with a bachelor's degree in finance and is a Level III CFA candidate.