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Philip van Doorn

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Sept. 14, 2020, 6:08 a.m. EDT

Did you miss out on Tesla’s big run? There are still good alternatives to play the electric-car revolution

There’s money to be made from industry suppliers and even from some old manufacturers

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By Philip van Doorn, MarketWatch

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He also said that Nio’s battery-swapping network not only makes it easier for a customer on a long trip to quickly switch to a new battery and move on, it can enable the customer to switch battery sizes without buying a new car. These may be excellent selling points even over Tesla.

Suppliers

Kim advised against trying to pick winners among expensively-priced EV stocks and instead named three large suppliers of parts and technology to EV manufacturers and noted that these suppliers also benefit from the trend toward higher-tech driver-assist and safety features in all cars.

Also included in this table is Infineon Technologies AG /zigman2/quotes/203514023/composite IFNNY +0.40% /zigman2/quotes/203152288/delayed XE:IFX +0.32%  , a German semiconductor company cited by Simon Webber, a portfolio manager with Schroders in London.

Company Ticker Forward price/earnings ratio Total return - 2020 through Sept. 8 Share 'buy' ratings
Aptiv PLC /zigman2/quotes/204162392/composite APTV   27.0 -11% 79%
Lear Corporation /zigman2/quotes/203548859/composite LEA   10.5 14% 44%
Continental AG ADR /zigman2/quotes/204017576/composite CTTAY   15.5 -4% 28%
Infineon Technologies AG ADR /zigman2/quotes/203514023/composite IFNNY 28.1 16% 59%
Source: FactSet

On the table above, Contental AG’s ADR is included. The main ticker is in Germany /zigman2/quotes/206791451/delayed XE:CON +1.62%

Kim called Aptiv /zigman2/quotes/204162392/composite APTV +0.85%  a “global tier 1 supplier” of electronic systems and components, as well as safety systems, around the world. Even buyers of traditional cars are clamoring for as many safety features as possible. Aptiv’s major competitors in the safety space are Bosch, which is privately held, and Continental AG, Kim said.

Lear /zigman2/quotes/203548859/composite LEA +1.72%  is one of the largest suppliers of vehicle seats. But the company also has an electronics business competing with Aptiv, Kim said.

The stocks have been under pressure this year because of volume declines at major traditional manufacturers given the Covid-19 crisis, he said.

Aptiv, Lear and Continental are among suppliers that “have important roles to play, especially around things like autonomous vehicles,” Robinson of Lux Research said.

Webber called Infineon Technologies a global leader in semiconductors that manage power coming out of a motor. “When you transition from a combustion vehicle to an EV, you need three or four times the power management content,” he said. His fund owns shares in the company.

A beefed-up electric grid and batteries

Webber co-manages the Hartford Schroders International Stock Fund /zigman2/quotes/206840490/realtime SCIEX +1.16% , which is rated five stars (the highest rating) by Morningstar.

Even though shares of EV makers have performed so well, investors are underestimating the potential size of the EV market, he said.

“If you are brave enough to imagine a different future and look where policy makers are setting medium to long-term targets, it is clear that in large parts of Europe and America, in 10 to 15 years time, it can be close to 100% penetration for electric vehicles,” he said in an interview.

For the new car market, in Europe especially, “if you are not able to drive your [ICE] vehicle into certain places, or face [an onerous] tax regime, then simply the economics will point you in a certain direction,” he added.

Webber said that in Norway, more than half of new car sales are now EVs, because of “a really big package” of government incentives.

Despite a global decline in EV sales in 2019 and during the first quarter of 2020, sales in Europe continued to rise rapidly, according to this McKinsey report .

When discussing range anxiety, a common sticking point for people in the U.S. considering electric cars, Webber said that in Europe, Tesla’s charging network can now take him “anywhere,” and that recent recharging at the Tesla stations had taken about a half-hour, including the wait time for the charger.

But putting a practical charging network in place in the U.S. is going to take longer, he said.

In Europe, Webber sees opportunities for investors in electric companies, including National Grid, and Red Electrica, which are electric utilities, Schneider Electric S.E. and Eaton Corp. PLC, which make electric components, and Alfen NV, which designs and builds vehicle charging equipment and energy storage systems.

This table includes the above five companies with their local tickers:

Company Ticker Country Total return - 2020 Share 'buy' ratings
National Grid PLC /zigman2/quotes/208805676/delayed UK:NG   U.K. -7% 78%
Red Electrica Corp. SA /zigman2/quotes/202961890/delayed ES:REE   Spain -6% 28%
Schneider Electric SE /zigman2/quotes/200216351/delayed FR:SU   France 18% 57%
Eaton Corp. PLC /zigman2/quotes/205393239/composite ETN   Ireland 9% 56%
Alfen NV /zigman2/quotes/204310647/delayed NL:ALFEN Netherlands 220% 0%
Source: FactSet

Three of the above also trade under ADRs:

Company ADR
National Grid PLC /zigman2/quotes/209300382/composite NGGTF  
Red Electrica Corp. SA /zigman2/quotes/205900862/composite RDEIY  
Schneider Electric SE /zigman2/quotes/201742594/composite SBGSY  

Webber also sees “a long runway for growth” for battery manufacturers.

Company Ticker Country Forward price/ earnings ratio Total return - 2020 Share 'buy' ratings
Samsung SDI Co. /zigman2/quotes/202065513/delayed KR:006400 South Korea 28.8 85% 91%
LG Chem Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/207159357/delayed KR:051910 South Korea 28.3 123% 91%
Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Class A /zigman2/quotes/206979434/delayed CN:300750 China 59.6 92% 86%
Panasonic Corp ADR /zigman2/quotes/202333059/composite PCRFY Japan 22.2 -3% 24%
Source: FactSet

The above tickers are all for the main listing, except for Panasonic, which is an ADR. Tesla’s battery-making partner’s home market is the Tokyo exchange /zigman2/quotes/201785256/delayed JP:6752 -0.32% .

Traditional auto manufacturers take on Tesla

Kim expects to see a “duopoly” between Tesla and Volkswagen /zigman2/quotes/204431732/composite VWAGY -0.38% /zigman2/quotes/203434344/delayed XE:VOW3 +1.33%   /zigman2/quotes/206919008/delayed XE:VOW -0.15% . “VW has scale, clearly, and Tesla is synonymous with EVs, particularly with younger consumers,” he said.

Among traditional car manufacturers moving into EVs, Webber believes BMW /zigman2/quotes/202432319/delayed XE:BMW +1.39% /zigman2/quotes/200850296/composite BMWYY +1.34%  will be one of the dominant players, along with Tesla and Volkswagen. He has “higher conviction” for BMW than he has for VW, because of its long investment in the EV space.

“BMW with the I series and the MINI have are already selling quite significant electric volumes,” Webber said. “They are well ahead in this transition. It is the companies trying to make money with gasoline vehicles that worry you.”

George Schultze, CEO of Schultze Asset Management, based in Rye Brook, N.Y., favors General Motors Co. /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM +0.54%  as a value play on the transition to electric vehicles. For one thing, GM’s shares trade for only 6.6 times the consensus forward earnings estimate among analysts polled by FactSet. Among 18 analysts covering GM, 15 rate the stock the equivalent of a “buy.”

During an interview, Schultze, who owns GM shares in the accounts he manages, described the company as “a hybrid between old and new” that has deep pockets to fund continued development in EVs and autonomous vehicles. The Nikola deal supports that idea, he said. In addition, GM is refurbishing a plant in Detroit to build electric vehicles and expects to roll out electric pickup trucks for sale next year.

Schultze expects GM to set trends with autonomous vehicles, in part because it can funnel its cash flow from traditional vehicles into new areas. This could lead to an unlocking of value if the company decides to spin off its EV unit.

When asked during GM’s second-quarter earnings call on July 29 about whether the company was considering such a spinoff, especially in light of investors’ appetite for EV stocks, CEO Mary Barra said “nothing is off the table,” and that she and her team were “open to looking at and [evaluating] anything that we think is going to drive long-term shareholder value,” according to a transcript provided by FactSet.

Also read: E-bike growth was supposed to take 10 years — here’s why it soared in six months and the firms to invest in

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705,000
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274.80
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87.56
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US : U.S.: OTC
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Philip van Doorn covers various investment and industry topics. He has previously worked as a senior analyst at TheStreet.com. He also has experience in community banking and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York.

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