What it does
Ceres’ core SteelCell technology overcomes two problems traditionally associated with other solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC): cost and lack of robustness. SteelCell can use a variety of fuels - natural gas, hydrogen, biofuel - that can be manufactured from widely available materials, making it the most cost-effective solution on the market. “This scalability is Ceres’s key competitive advantage, in our view,” broker Berenberg said recently.
Progress to date
It has an impressive roster of partners. Key among them are Chinese engines giant Weichai Power, German engineering firm Bosch, US engine maker Cummins and Japanese carmakers Nissan and Honda.
Japanese boiler group Miura and Korean fuel cell specialist Doosan are also working on projects with Ceres.
In its results for the six months ended 31 December 2019, Ceres saw total revenue and other operating income rise to £11.04mln from £8.27mln in the same period of 2018.
At the end of 2019, Ceres added that it had a strong order book of £22mln and a pipeline of £50mln comprising a combination of staged licensing payments and engineering services.
The adjusted underlying loss (LBITDA) narrowed to £1.41mln from £2.01mln the previous year. The reported loss before tax was £2.79mln, compared to a loss the year before of £2.81mln.
What the boss says: Phil Caldwell, chief executive
"Ceres has a technology that the world urgently needs to tackle climate change. As a management team, we are focused on maintaining our industry-leading position in fuel cells, while also maximising the future value for Ceres presented by the broader addressable market for clean energy technology”.
“I believe that the quality and success of the partnerships we have built with Bosch, Weichai, Doosan, Miura and others is a huge endorsement of our technology, our team and our approach. We are now in a privileged position, with investor support, committed partners and balance sheet strength, to capitalise on the substantial opportunities that exist to deliver long-term profit and to do so with purpose".
In March,Ceres raised £49mln in total from share subscriptions by existing investors German firm Robert Bosch GmbH and Weichai Power of China
In January, Bosch increased its stake in the company to around 18% from 4% following a share subscription, netting Ceres £38mln
In November, Ceres announced the development of its first zero-emission combined heat and power (CHP) system, designed exclusively for use with hydrogen fuel
In July, Ceres signed a collaboration agreement with South Korean conglomerate Doosan to develop a solid oxide fuel cell power system for the commercial building market
What the brokers say
In early April, analysts at Liberum retained their 'buy' rating a 540p price target, saying they believed Ceres was "one of the best placed fuel cell companies for the energy transition given the class leading energy efficiency of SOFCs, the very competitive technology package, very strong partners and fuel flexibility".
"We forecast around £150mln annual revenues and over £100mln of earnings and free cash flow in 2030 from customer royalties associated with the data centre power, commercial heat and power and commercial vehicle battery range extender markets", the broker added.
Meanwhile, in February analysts at Berenberg said “we are confident the company is still only at the start of its multi-year journey” as it raised its target price for the shares to 470p from 290p.
Berenberg’s analysts made the chunky valuation upgrade after taking a closer look at Ceres' progress to date, while factoring in upcoming commercial landmarks.
They pointed out that Ceres is now the market leader in solid-oxide fuel cells. “While investment has been widespread across proton-exchange membrane fuel cell suppliers, global OEMs [manufacturers] are partnering solely with Ceres in the solid-oxide fuel cell space,” the analysts said.
In taking a closer look at the Ceres story, the Berenberg analysts estimate the company could feasibly increase its sales forty-fold – and likened it to another UK technology pioneer, ARM Holdings.
“Based on Ceres’s potential market penetration and royalty streams, we have modelled scenarios under which the company could generate £800mln of sales per annum in the next 15-20 years At scale, Ceres should generate 40-50% operating margins, akin to ARM Holding,” the analysts said.
According to Ceres: "The UK Government is the first G20 country to legislate towards meeting a net-zero emissions target by 2050, and the EU is debating doing something similar.
"In Japan, there are now more than 300,000 ENE-Farm domestic energy units installed, heated and powered by fuel cells and, at next year's Tokyo Olympics, there will be a fleet of 100 fuel-cell-powered buses to transport spectators.
"The Korean Government has announced a target of 15GW of stationary fuel cell capacity by 2040, and to put 80,000 hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) on its roads within the next three years.
"China, with its targets to reduce emissions and to counter considerable issues over air pollution in their cities, also has an active programme for new electric vehicles, including buses."