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Ballard dissolves Ebara Japanese power generation joint venture

VANCOUVER, B.C. – Ballard Power Systems (TSX:BLD) has dissolved a cogeneration joint venture for producing electricity and hot water in Japanese homes, saying it would take too long to develop the technology. The Vancouver-based fuel cell developer said it and partner Ebara Corp. of Japan both agreed to abandon the project because the extended timeline would require a much greater investment.

Ballard would have had to invest millions more annually to go forward with the project, president and chief executive John Sheridan said.

“We believe that this decision is in the best interest of both joint venture parties, along with our shareholders,” Sheridan said.

He said Ballard will take a non-cash gain in the second quarter of about $10 million as a result of the move. The company lost $2.9 million in the first quarter from the business, he said.
Ebara Ballard Corp. made stationary power systems for the residential cogeneration market in Japan, and were part of a government subsidy program. Ballard said it will continue to sell its cogeneration fuel cell stack products in Japan and the joint venture will continue to service systems already in the field. Sheridan said the decision doesn’t change its guidance, or its projection to sell about 4,000 fuel-cell units in 2009. The company had planned to ship 500 of the residential cogeneration units in Japan this year, as well as 1,000 fuel cells for forklifts and 2,500 for backup power systems. Sheridan said the company expects to make up the difference, which is about $2 million to $3 million in revenues annually, through its other businesses. Ballard is projecting annual revenues of about $68 million this year, which is at the lower end of its guidance.

The company has been expanding into other fuel-cell uses after selling its automotive fuel cell development business to Daimler AG and Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) early last year. At the time Ballard said it wanted to focus more on what it sees as other promising businesses, such as materials handling, backup power and residential cogeneration. BMO Capital Markets analyst Brian Piccioni believes the move is a good one for Ballard, calling the Japanese cogeneration business “a distraction.”

“As far as I’m concerned it was never a viable business and it’s a good thing they are getting out of it,” he said.

He said more promising ventures include selling fuel cells to India’s growing market. Last fall, Ballard signed a development and supply agreement with ACME and IdaTech LLC to supply 1,000 fuel cell units in 2009 and 9,000 units in 2010. Ballard shares closed down two cents to $2.10 on the Toronto Stock Exchange Monday. Last month, Ballard reported a loss of US$18.6 million in the first quarter, citing weak shipments and falling revenues along with restructuring costs from recent staff cuts. Ballard, which reports in U.S. dollars, said the loss amounted to 22 cents per share for the quarter ended March 31.

The most recent results included $1.1 million worth of severance costs when the company laid off 32 employees, or seven per cent of its workforce, earlier this month. The loss was compared to a profit of $81 million or 87 cents per share for the same period last year, buoyed by a $97-million gain from the sale of its automotive fuel cell development business to Daimler and Ford. Quarterly revenue fell to $8.1 million during the quarter, down nearly 50 per cent from year-earlier levels of $16 million, as weakness in the auto sector crimped demand for the company’s products. Total product shipments fell to 192 from 284 during the same quarter the year before.

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May 26, 2009 - 3:52 PM No Comments

“F-Cell” 2009: Fuel cells in the market – Japan shows the way

The ninth forum for producers and users of fuel cells, “f-cell”, on September 28 and 29, 2009, in Stuttgart will be presenting the entire bandwidth of stationary, mobile, and portable fuel cell applications. Focal points in 2009: “Fuel cells in vehicles.” Also: “How Japan is driving forward the market entry of fuel cells.”

Stuttgart (eos) –  On September 28 and 29, 2009, Stuttgart will once again become the hub of the international “fuel cell community”: The ninth specialist forum “f-cell” –  congress and trade fair – will show the status of development and marketing of stationary, mobile, and portable fuel cell applications. “The focus this year will be on fuel cells in vehicles, and another main aspect will be activities in Japan,” explains Peter Sauber, managing director of the “Peter Sauber Agentur Messen und Kongresse GmbH”, which is organizing this industry-specific event jointly with the “Wirtschaftsförderung Region Stuttgart GmbH (WRS – regional economic promotion).

Main topic: Japan
The event organizer has intensified his good contacts to Japan, enabling him to acquire interesting speakers for the f-cell, including Nissan and Daihatsu, even at this early stage. “Japan is one of the countries that are setting the pace in the deployment of fuel cells,” says Sauber. He recently organized a joint booth for German companies at the FC Expo in Tokyo. “The trade fair with a total of 450 exhibitors made clear that fuel cell technology has already found a place in the everyday life of a great many companies in Japan. That creates the critical mass that enables market entry for the technology, placing Japan far ahead of us.” In order to provide f-cell visitors with comprehensive insight into Japanese activities, one or two speakers from Japan will make presentations in each of the specific f-cell forums. “We will schedule the presentations in such a way that those who are interested can switch between the forums and hear all the Japanese lectures,” explains the event organizer, who is also organizing a one-week delegation trip to Baden-Württemberg for representative from Japanese companies and research facilities, which will include not only the “f-cell”.

Information on “f-cell”
Those who are interested can find more information on the “f-cell” on the internet at: www.f-cell.de The Peter Sauber Agency can be reached by telephone at 0711-656960-50. The current program for the “f-cell” 2009 will be available on the event homepage from around the end of May onwards.

Stuttgart, March 2009


“f-cell” event organizer Peter Sauber (left), managing director of the Peter Sauber Agentur Messen und Kongresse GmbH, maintains personal contact to speakers and visitors. In Japan, he recently acquired exciting lecture topics for the “f-cell” 2009 on September 28 and 29 in Stuttgart.
Photo: Peter Sauber Agency / Hindley

The development and marketing of fuel cell applications in Japan will be one of the focal issues of this year’s specialist forum f-cell on September 28 and 29 in Stuttgart. Last year, Takehiko Kato (photo), President of the Interlink Corporation in Tokyo, Japan, clearly illustrated the pioneering role of his country with regard to stationary applications.
Photo: Peter Sauber Agency / Fabry

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May 2, 2009 - 4:14 PM Comment (1)