This is an elaboration of my last post.
I’ve looked into Nicola a little bit–emphasis on little–more. Founder Trevor Milton’s resignation from the company’s board isn’t exactly a confidence builder. Even more telling for me, however, is his that his endgame for Nicola is not to make money from building hydrogen-powered vehicles but rather by supplying them the hydrogen they will consume when running.
This model is a familiar one. Copier makers, for example, are willing to sell machines at a loss; their profits come from selling ink, paper and maintenance contracts . But it’s also a very tough way to make a living, and not the kind of thing investors are willing to pay an above-average earnings multiple to own.
The revelation that Nicola’s master plan is more or less to run a chain of gas stations–even were, say, convenience stores come with them–has landed with a thud. To my mind, bare-cupboard Nicola is a clear signal that the wild speculation accompanying anything labeled tech is over.
What comes next isn’t clear. What I’m thinking, so far:
–tech itself isn’t over. But the sizzle of being the next, newest, best thing ever probably won’t be enough to drive a stock higher from now on. I think the key distinction investors will begin to draw will be between firms that have a good chance to become successful stand-alone businesses (i.e., the winners) and ones where they’ll at best be a feature on someone else’s product (i.e., the losers). The market may well spend the next few months sorting the former from the latter. This would echo what happened after the Internet bubble burst in early 2000.
–but the market will also begin to look at non-tech sectors/companies in a more serious way. The big question is in what way.