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Charging Up With Electric Fuel


Inside Wall Street

Charging Up with Electric Fuel

Little-known battery maker Electric Fuel (EFCX), an Israeli company with marketing offices in Iselin, N.J., and production facilities in Israel and Alabama, is bound to get better known before long. Its chief product is a line of ZincAir disposable batteries used mainly as backup for cellular phones. They're ready-to-use, high-capacity batteries that fit most cellular phones, including Nokia, Ericsson, and Motorola models. No longer will cell-phone owners have to bring recharger equipment when they travel: They can carry spare ZincAir batteries.

The big news from Electric Fuel is yet to come: It will soon announce an "Instant Power" battery for the popular hand-held Palm computers. They will allow Palm users to continue working even after their batteries run down.

"The new battery will be a hot seller among Palm and cellular-phone users," says a New York money manager who has been buying shares. Electric Fuel shares, now at 10 each, rose to a high of 23 in late February.

Analyst Oren Rossen of the European investment bank Investec expects Electric Fuel to ramp up output this year. It's now producing 200,000 batteries a month. With the batteries priced at $5 apiece, he says the company should sell some $8 million worth of batteries this year. By 2001, sales should jump to 6 million units per quarter, based on expected demand, says Rossen. He sees total yearly sales, adjusted for possible price cuts, of $80 million. He thinks Electric Fuel will post operating profits by 2001.By Gene G. MarcialReturn to top

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