Shares of Maxar Technologies (NYSE: MAXR) soared nearly 28% yesterday on news that NASA has tapped the Canadian/American space-tech star for a 50-kilowatt solar electric propulsion system to power NASA's planned lunar mobile command and service module. The project will be part of the Lunar Gateway orbital space station that the agency plans to build for America's return to the moon.
But today, for some reason, Maxar stock is going back down, with shares off 9.8% as of 2 p.m. EDT. Why?
NASA's announcement provided a much-needed boost for Maxar stock yesterday. Shares of the space tech company, which does more than $2 billion in revenue a year and is responsible for some of the most innovative tech ideas in space in recent years, have been pummeled -- down 82% in 52 weeks. That was in response to weak earnings and a big hit taken on a defunct spacecraft earlier in the year. So news that Maxar is now in the running to collect as much as $375 million to build a 21st century space engine for NASA was obviously pleasing to shareholders.
And yet, like Kenny Rogers used to say, "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em." Maxar's contract win is great news for investors -- but only if the company actually fulfills the contract.
Earlier this year, Maxar walked away from a contract awarded to it by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The contract, nearly as high profile as the Nasa deal, would have seen Maxar break new ground by pioneering the in-orbit servicing of government satellites. No clear reason was given for Maxar's move back then, other than a desire to "focus its resources on ensuring optimal returns" -- which suggests the company may be struggling to balance multiple projects against its own limited resources.
I personally would love to see the company succeed on its Lunar Gateway project -- and rethink the satellite servicing contract, too! But with $3.3 billion in net debt on its books, and no free cash flow coming in to service that debt, I don't see Maxar's problems as over just yet, and even this week's positive NASA news may be too little, too late to save the company.
Looks like some other investors may be starting to hedge their bets, as well.
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