This clean energy play’s business model may just be recession proof

With fears growing that the economy could tip into a recession, investors may be on the hunt for companies that can perform well despite a deteriorating macroeconomic environment. Raymond James has one pick in the clean energy industry: Itron . Based in a Spokane, Washington suburb, Itron has “one of the least economically sensitive revenue streams among clean tech companies, and this is in the context of a space where there is minimal linkage across the board to GDP dynamics,” analysts led by Pavel Molchanov said in a note to clients Friday. Itron supplies smart meters and sensors, working with utilities to help them better understand consumption practices, and monitor supply and demand through a constant flow of data. That improves operational efficiency and enhances grid reliability. Shares of the company are down more than 30% for 2022, alongside a broader market sell-off that’s hit growth-oriented areas of the market especially hard. But Raymond James said the cause of Itron’s decline has changed. At the beginning of the year the weakness was thanks to concerns surrounding supply chain bottlenecks and an inadequate supply of electrical components. Now, investors are jittery about risks stemming from the broader macroeconomic environment. Raymond James said both of these cannot be true at the same time: “Either (1) demand is strong and supply chain complications persist, or (2) demand weakens and there is the silver lining of the supply chain loosening up.” Molchanov went on to note that utility companies’ spending on services like smart meters is based on regulatory decisions rather than the pace of economic growth. “It is practically unheard of for utilities to change their capital spending plans, whether up or down, because of short-term economic conditions,” the firm said. Raymond James noted that during the financial crisis, Itron’s U.S. revenue held up. In 2007, Itron reported U.S. sales of $597 million, rising to $607 million in 2009, according to the bank. “Even during the worst economic backdrop in 60-plus years, Itron’s U.S. sales remained basically stable,” the firm said. Molchanov rates Itron a buy with a $72 price target, versus a Wall Street average price target of $64, according to FactSet.

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