All is fair in love, in war, and on Wall Street, and the results of the three pastimes are about equally predictable.
So we have Chatsworth-based Capstone Turbine Inc., a company with a solid product the gas-powered microturbine sinking nearly 90 percent in the past year, from nearly $100 a share to $12 last week. Capstone is even trading below its IPO price of $16 last June.
Microturbines can be installed in commercial settings, and since they run on natural gas, they can keep a convenience store or gas station running even when the main grid is kaput. The company has lots of coverage on Wall Street, from heavy hitters like Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse First Boston, and most of it favorable.
But to no avail. Race to the other side of Los Angeles County, and you will find El Segundo-based Aura Systems Inc., the province of Chairman Zvi "Harry" Kurtzman. Aura Systems has had more incarnations in the last decade than a cat has lives, making everything from stereo speakers to vests used by video action-game players. Aura Systems has rarely made money, and has had scrapes with the Securities and Exchange Commission on the way it reports its earnings.
In its latest revival, Aura Systems is selling the "AuraGen," a portable electrical power generator which is hooked up to automobile or truck engines, and which Kurtzman has touted as a solution to California's energy crisis. In the last 52 weeks, Aura Systems stock is up 190 percent on the over-the-counter bulletin board market, to a recent price of 64 cents.
So what gives? Why the differing tales of two energy-related stocks, both with partial solutions to rolling blackouts?
Capstone's chief financial officer, Jeff Watts, said a limited supply of Capstone Turbine stock after its June IPO, plus the sudden appearance of a serious energy crunch in California, combined to ratchet Capstone's stock upward. "There was a lot of restricted, or (SEC Rule) 144, stock, which couldn't be sold for six months," said Watts, referring to stock held by corporate insiders, and which by federal securities law generally cannot be sold until 180 days after the IPO.
This supply constraint, occurring at the same time the energy crunch hit, set the stock in motion. Traders got in, and Capstone's surge rivaled that of Internet stocks of the late 1990s. But then came the energy crunch, along with the sagging stock market and economy, and insiders started selling. The stock crumbled.
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