Green money managers' stock picks after the Japanese nuclear crisis.
Even as the nuclear disaster in Japan unfolds, it's clear that the world's energy industry will be forever changed. Russian reactors were never considered safe, but a Japanese to have a nuclear meltdown is an entirely different story.
Since Monday, nuclear stocks and ETFs have been plummeting. As of Wednesday night, The Market Vectors Uranium + Nuclear Energy ETF (NLR), the iShares S&P Global Nuclear Energy Index (NUCL), PowerShares Global Nuclear Energy Portfolio ETF (PKN), and the Global X Uranium ETF (URA) are down 17%, 14%, 16%, and 29% respectively.
Yet we still need energy, and when the dangers of traditional energy once again rise in our awareness, the safety of renewable energy gains appeal. Over the same three days, the most liquid of the Clean Energy ETFs, the Powershares Wilderhill Clean Energy ETF (PBW), the First Trust ISE Global Wind Energy ETF (FAN), and the Guggenheim Solar ETF (TAN) gained 1%, 2%, and 11%, respectively, even as the S&P 500 fell 3%.
The market thinks that the outlook for clean energy in general and solar in particular, has improved greatly. This makes sense, because as the Japanese rebuild their energy infrastructure, they will stay away from nuclear, and focus on electricity that's safe, and quick to deploy. Green energy fits the bill.
If green energy will do well in general, which stocks will do the best? I emailed my contacts among green investment fund managers, and asked them each to pick one stock they thought was particularly well positioned. Here are their picks.
Garvin Jabusch: LDK Solar
Jabusch manages the Sierra Club Green Alpha Portfolio. He thinks that, in the long run, solar will be the big winner, followed by wind. His top pick is LDK Solar (LDK), which his fund holds. He also blogs about green investing, and has just finished an article on Japan, Nukes, and Solar.
John Segrich CFA: Capstone Turbine
Segrich manages the top-performing Gabelli SRI Green Growth Fund (SRIGX). Like many contrarian investors, he's not great at following instructions (I asked for no more than three sentences), but he has interesting things to say:
The big beneficiary in the aftermath of the Japan nuclear crisis will be natural gas related companies. In particular Japan is likely to rebuild generation infrastructure with natural gas and in particular liquid natural gas (LNG). The pushback against nuclear will not necessarily be the boon to renewable that many are suggesting. Renewables are not failsafe in a disaster scenario (look at how many solar panels were shattered in the quake) and they cannot replace baseload power. Gas is the logical and cleanest and safest solution and we would expect Japan, Italy, and Germany to build more gas vs increase emphasis on renewable. … one interesting way would be to look at companies whose business model is gas based and can handle local based generation with rapid deployment:
Capstone Turbine (CPST) makes gas powered microturbines that can be locally installed and can provide immediate efficient and clean power generation for stand alone facilities (hospitals, schools, hotels, critical infrastructure) – we are already seeing deployment on infrastructure in the U.S. to provide constant, reliable, failsafe power. I would expect to see adoption of these solutions for rapid deployment in disaster areas such as Japan at the moment to provide critical power on a local level as needed. Longer term, integrating these turbines as a backup/distributed power solution also makes sense for future emergency planning.
Sam Healey: MEMC Electronic Materials
Sam Healey manages a Cleantech stock portfolio at Lamassu Capital. He thinks MEMC Electronic Materials (WFR) has two chances to benefit from the disaster. First, the nuclear renaissance stalls, it will boost to the Solar industry, and MEMC will benefit. By year end WFR will be vertically integrated from Poly [silicon] production through installation via Sun Edison and will be able to capitalize on any global expansion of solar power. Second, and more important in the near term, Japan accounted for 10-20% of the global Poly manufacturing of Semi [conductor] Wafers. Therefore, MEMC, will be able to gain share in the near term as it absorbs some of the demand for Semi Wafers, and perhaps will also have better pricing. MEMC does have one plant in Japan that is currently off line as a result of the earthquake. The plant does not produce raw poly but was one of MEMC's 8 plants that manufacture 300 MM wafers and 1 of 3 MEMC plants that engage in wafer polishing and slicing. The risk is that they will not be able to replace this production at their non Japan plants.
Tom Konrad CFA: NGK Insulators
My own pick is NGK Insulators (OTC:NGKIF). NGK has fallen along with the Japanese market, but stands to benefit from the rebuilding of the northern Japanese grid. NGK's manufacturing is located in the central and southern part of the country, so the company should not have been too badly hurt by the earthquake and tsunami. NGK also sells the most mature, high capacity grid-based electricity storage technologies: the Sodium-Sulfur (NaS) battery. Especially on a small island like Japan, electricity storage is very helpful for integrating the variable power from solar and wind, and the Japanese are likely to favor this home-grown technology over foreign rivals.
Solar, distributed Natural gas, Electric grid & storage: they could all be winners. What do you think? The comments are open. I've also started a poll.
DISCLOSURE: No positions. I did not ask the money managers interviewed if they own their picks, but we can assume they do.
Past performance is not a guarantee or a reliable indicator of future results. This article contains the current opinions of the author and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This article has been distributed for informational purposes only. Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed.