Giga-Tronics Doing Their Best Plug Power Imitation

Jacob Harper |

June has been a banner month for Giga-Tronics (GIGA) , to say the least. The company’s stock has nearly quadrupled in value, and for legitimate (and thus hopefully sustainable) reasons. This is no LiveDeal (LIVE) -type stock pop built on spin and pumping. Giga-Tronics has surged on the back of two legitimate, successive mega-deals, bringing their stock value up in a fashion quite reminiscent of tech’s last big microcap story, Plug Power (PLUG) .

Let’s look at what happened to Giga-tronics in June, how that mirrored developments in Plug Power four months prior, and the resulting investor exuberance – and possible correction.

Giga-Tronic Scores Two Mega-Deals, Almost Notches a Four-Bagger

On June 2, Giga-Tronics reached a deal with a large aeronautics company to produce yttrium iron garnet (YIG) filters for their aircrafts. That news was good enough to send the company’s stock up nearly 150 percent in a single trading session. This was followed by a 20 percent correction the following session as investor over-exuberance was tempered. Tech has never been a sector tied too closely to that little thing called reality, but even tech investors have their limits when it comes to cognitive dissonance.

Just over two weeks later on June 17, Giga-Tronics received an order from the US Navy to supply the military branch with its Model 8003 Precision Scalar Analyzer, in a deal worth a reported $2.4 million. For a tech company that had been valued at just over $12 million total, this was quite a boon, to say the least. Giga-Tronic’s stock spiked 88 percent in early action.

By 1:30 EST shares had already started to retreat slightly, but the day’s gains were still clocking in at a wildly-impressive 83 percent.

What Was That About Plug Power?

These sorts of theoretically sustainable mega-intraday stock pops mirror what happened to Small-Cap Star Plug Power earlier in the year. The hydrogen fuel-cell manufacturer had long been unprofitable, greatly frustrating its long-suffering investors. A sudden announcement of profitability was bolstered by lucrative deals, first with FedEx (FDX) to outfit FedEx trucks with hydrogen fuel-cell batteries, then with Wal-Mart (WMT) to power the retail behemoth’s massive fleet of forklifts. The latter deal was valued at nearly $50 million.

Plug Power became the microcap tech play of the still-young year. By March 10 the stock had increased in value nearly ten fold.

Then the correction came, and it came hard.

Enter the Short-Seller

Plug Power’s meteoric rise was checked nearly as fast as it had begun. Notorious short-seller Citron Research issued a damning hit piece on Plug Power, sinking shares considerably. This was preceded by a good old-fashioned sell-off, as stockholders began to doubt that even on the backs of such momentous deals such a massive stock uptick could be as sustainable as the company’s green batteries.

Shares of Plug Power fell by more than 50 percent before settling around $4.25 a share, or where they were back in February. Still a 175% gain YTD, which is not too shabby, but also not nearly as robust as it had been.

The Cool-Down?

Returning to Giga-Tronics: the June stock rise is of course not tied to earnings, per se, but promises of such. Orders of the size Giga-Tronics just received are certainly a cause for celebration for a company of its size. But tech plays like Giga-Tronics tend to attract an irrational amount of investor exuberance, as Plug Power previously had. And then they tend to encounter sell-offs.

This is not to say that Giga-Tronic’s stock is doomed to correct harshly like Plug Power’s did. Giga-Tronic has a notable lack of short interest, at just a scant 0.09 percent of the float, indicating there are very few players that believe the company is likely to tank in the near future.

But Giga-Tronic’s stock is also currently at not just its 52-week high, but its highest valuation in over nine years. Like Plug Power, Giga-Tronic is a company with a 30-year track record as a public company that has long failed to make good on early valuation promises. An investor who had put $1,000 in Giga-Tronics in 1983 would have just $88.79 today.

This type of performance is rather reminiscent of Plug Power, who although way up in 2014 are down a whopping 99 percent since the 2000s tech bubble.

Giga-Tronic and Plug Power’s companies are not in direct competition. And Giga-Tronic’s fall and re-rise has not been nearly as dramatic as Plug Power’s. But as two decades-long suffering tech micro-caps that are have seen a change in fortune in 2014, the psychology of their investors to latch onto good news and send shares soaring to neigh-unsustainable hieghts, at least for awhile, seems quite similar indeed. 

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