FRANKFURT -- I am currently in Europe to play some golf and go to the World Cup. America didn't do very well, but I have tickets to watch Brazil play and drink German beer. Life is good. As a former football player, I plan to find out why they call soccer "football". I also am looking for investment ideas, with some help from a couple of hedge fund buddies of mine based here. Europe is one of the leaders in renewable energy. Through tax incentives and subsidies, governments here encourage energy independence through alternative energy. One of the most exciting technologies for producing energy is tidal power. The World Energy Council says there is enough wave power in our oceans to produce twice the current level of the world's electrical needs. While wind and the sun cannot be always counted on to blow or shine, we know what the tide will doing for the next thousand years. Just off the coast of Cornwall, England is the site of the Wave Hub project, in which three companies plan to test their ability to take energy from the ocean and turn it into electricity. This project, to be built in 2007-2008, will give us the clear world leader in wave power technology. A couple of weeks ago I visited with Dr. George W. Taylor and Chuck Dunleavy, the CEO and CFO, respectively, of Ocean Power Technology, which is based out of Pennington, N.J. A participant in hte Wave Hub project, Ocean Power Technology is listed on the
London Stock Exchange's AIM, where it is easier for "early stage" companies to list and not have to worry about the costs of adhering to Sarbanes Oxley. I have not bought any stocks on the London AIM yet, but my online broker, Schwab, and many others can easily facilitate a trade. Ocean Power plans to build a 5-megawatt farm, its first project of scale. To view John Layfield's video take of this column, click here .
Wave power, when built to scale, can produce electricity as cheaply as onshore wind projects, around 3 to 4 cents per kilowatt hour. As of last year, onshore wind power had become the cheapest form of energy to produce. However, you can build a megawatt of infrastructure for wave power for just under $1 million, while wind energy costs around $1.2 million. Onshore wind has an efficiency of anywhere from 25% in Spain to 45% in West Texas, while wave power has a slightly more consistent efficiency of 30% to 45%. Ocean Power Technology says it's about two years away from being commercially available. The company currently has a 1.39-megawatt project off the coast of Spain in agreement with Total S.A. ( TOT), and is building a facility off the cost of France in a joint venture with Iberdrola S.A. and Total. In fact, the government of Spain has stated publicly that it expects to install hundreds of megawatts of wave power off the country's coast. Elsewhere, the U.S. Navy has contracted Ocean Power Technology to build a project for the naval base in Hawaii. The Navy is the largest U.S. government consumer of energy, and this contract with Ocean Power Technology could develop into projects at bases around the world. Ocean Power Technology is also under contract with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to install and operate a wave power system off the Jersey Shore. The company also has signed a contract with the Department of Homeland Defense to provide an autonomous power system for Lockheed Martin's ( LMT) remote-sensing system used for protecting our coast. Autonomous wave power technology is a perfect fit for remote power for a tsunami warning system, a desalination plant or a remote fish farm.
Ocean Power Technology currently is losing about $1 million dollars a year currently but still has around $30 million left from its October 2003 IPO. At the company's current burn rate, this amount should be plenty to get it to a true revenue-generating stage. The company doesn't plan on owning the farms, just building and operating them, and the operation phase is going to be a great future revenue stream. Ocean Power Technology is a play on a nascent technology that is still a couple of years away. It has invested millions since 1997 researching the ocean and energy systems, as well as protecting its technology with patents. Wind energy started out small but developed into a large-scale technology, and wave power will follow a similar trajectory. CEO Mark Draper, of the Europe office based in the U.K., has said he believes Ocean Power Technology will be a billion-dollar company. While Ted Kennedy and his neighbors don't want offshore wind farms located near them, Ocean Power Technology will not face the same objections. Its patented PowerBuoy system is typically located one-to-three miles from a coastline and is not visible from shore. The PowerBuoy system has shown it can withstand hurricane winds. What's my advice? I believe in this technology, but if you have any doubts about investing in a start-up company that trades overseas and is at the forefront of a (yet) unproven technology, wait until after the Wave Hub project winner is declared, then jump in fast. I believe Ocean Power Technology will be the winner. Or you can buy into one of their partners now. Total, which has a yield of more than 3%, trades at forward multiple of around 9, has about $4 per share in cash and has more than $19 billion in operating cash flow.
I have to give you a stock you can buy today, so I recommend Activision ( ATVI), the video game manufacturer. I believe this stock could have 50% to 100% upside in a year, but I will explain why next week, so as to keep this article under the word count of War and Peace. Remember, being poor is bad, staying that way is stupid. Editor's Note: Please note that due to factors including low market capitalization and/or insufficient public float, we consider Ocean Power Technology to be a small-cap stock. You should be aware that such stocks are subject to more risk than stocks of larger companies, including greater volatility, lower liquidity and less publicly available information, and that postings such as this one can have an effect on their stock prices.