How Low Will Polypore International Go?

Shares of Polypore International (NYS: PPO) hit a 52-week low yesterday. Let's look at how it got here and whether clouds are ahead.

How it got here
It's tough being on the leading edge of a new technology. In the case of Polypore International, the lithium-battery separator business investors hoped would take off along with electric vehicle sales has been disappointing, driving the stock to a new low for the year. In the most recent quarter, lithium-battery separator sales were up just $300,000 from the year before to $42.4 million as production of EVs didn't live up to expectations.

The company's more traditional businesses didn't fare well either. Lead-acid battery separator sales fell 8% to $86.2 million and the media segment also fell 8% to $45.1 million.

Over the last year the future of one of Polypore's largest customers, LG Chem, has come into question as well. LG Chem makes batteries for General Motors' (NYS: GM) Chevy Volt as well as Ford's (NYS: F) Focus Electric, two vehicles the industry has high hopes for. Earlier this year LG Chem decided to strike out on its own, planning to invest $480 million in its own lithium-battery separator production.

With established businesses stuck in a rut and the company's emerging EV business coming into question, investors have abandoned ship.

But before you jump too, the stock is starting to become priced more attractively. The company is still profitable and trades at just 11.3 times next year's earnings estimates. A 7.6% return on assets and 13.1% profit margin is also very strong fundamentally. If growth returns, the stock will be a great value.

What's next?
As rough as the last year has been, there are some positive signs for Polypore going forward. Electric vehicles are gaining some traction in the high end of the market, and as technology improves, the adoption rate should improve as well.

The problem is that the pace of improvement could be slow with some of Polypore's clients on the wrong end of the EV movement right now. I think there's too much uncertainty to buy the low right now and the CAPS community has mixed feelings as well. Players have given the stock a three-star rating out of five, a very wishy-washy result.

Keep an eye out for stabilizing results and improved end-market sales in coming quarters before you buy into this stock. Interested in reading more about Polypore International? Click here to add it to My Watchlist, which will find all of our Foolish analysis on this stock.

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorTravis Hoiumdoes not have a position in any company mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at@FlushDrawFool, check out hispersonal stock holdingsor follow his CAPS picks atTMFFlushDraw.The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford Motor.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Ford Motor, General Motors, and Polypore International.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a synthetic long position in Ford Motor. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.

Copyright © 1995 - 2012 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.