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Clean Energy Founder Savors Idea of First Profits

Count Clean Energy Fuels Corp. co-founder and corporate raider T. Boone Pickens among the throngs of company backers who thought a profitable quarter would come years ago.

“I never believed it would take this long,” said the legendary oilman, who established Pickens Fuel Corp. in Seal Beach in 1997 and changed the name four years later. “We’ll be profitable for the year.”

If so, that would be the first time in the company’s volatile history.

In its favor: The country’s biggest builder and operator of natural-gas fueling stations just posted one of its strongest earnings reports on record.

The Newport Beach-based company in the first quarter reported revenue of $95.8 million, up 12% from a year earlier, and an adjusted profit of $2.8 million compared to a net loss of $31.1 million a year earlier. Wall Street was looking for a net loss of $18 million.

The company grew distribution of liquefied and compressed natural gas by 3% to 77.5 million gallons while cutting capital expenditures 15% year-over-year, putting it on track to hit its $25 million budget this year, which would be half of last year’s total.

Natural gas now accounts for about one-third of domestic energy production, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Clean Energy did not provide revenue and profit targets for the current quarter. Wall Street is expecting sales of $94.3 million and a net loss of $14.7 million.

The upbeat annual outlook comes in a tumultuous fuel market highlighted by increasing adoption of natural gas and a recent uptick in oil prices due to the ongoing Canadian wildfires and suppressed diesel prices.

“With diesel prices so cheap, it’s been hard on us,” Pickens said.

Those dynamics are playing out amid concerns that as many as a third of the world’s oil companies could go bankrupt this year, according to a recent Deloitte report. Texas and Pickens’ native Oklahoma have been hit particularly hard since October 2014, when a record 1,609 oil rigs were running in the U.S.

“Today we have 342,” said Pickens, who’s in town this week to drum up support for the Orange County Chapter of the Oklahoma State University Alumni Association at a May 26 event at Santa Ana Country Club.

Pickens caused a bit of a stir recently at an influential hedge fund conference in Las Vegas after backing Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the country.

Blizzard of Bucks?

It looks like Blizzard Entertainment Inc. has another hit in the making.

The Irvine-based company’s first-person shooter “Overwatch: Origins Edition” racked up 9.7 million players in beta, the largest number of gamers Blizzard has ever amassed in trial tests. The first new title from Blizzard in 18 years, which will launch Tuesday, is available for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One—marking the company’s first game geared for the Microsoft Corp. console.

The beta, which closed May 10, featured more than 81 million hours of game play and 37 million matches.

“Overwatch” will be available in English, Latin-American Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, German, European Spanish, French, Italian, Polish, Russian, Korean (PC only), Japanese (PC and PS4), and traditional and simplified Chinese (PC only).

Blizzard is OC’s largest software maker, with about 2,000 workers at its iron-gated headquarters at Irvine Spectrum. The company posted sales of $1.56 billion last year.

Cloud Company Buy

Denver-based Optic Security has completed the purchase of nearly all of the assets of Evantix GRC in Newport Beach. Financial terms of the buy were undisclosed.

Evantix, which was established in 2007, provides cloud services that automate risk analysis and compliance management for businesses. Its customers have included eBay, Adobe, McGraw Hill and PayPal.

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