North Coast Solar Stocks

March 31, 2009

Spire Corporation Reports Record Results for Fourth-Quarter and Year-End 2008

Filed under: SPIR — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 4:24 pm

2008 revenues increase 85% from record turnkey solar factory and capital equipment sales.
2008 net income was $4.8 million principally from a gain on a contract termination.
$54 million order for solar cells received from a turnkey line customer, Federal Prison Industries.

Tuesday March 31, 2009, 4:24 pm EDT

BEDFORD, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Spire Corporation (SPIR), a global solar company providing turnkey solar factories and capital equipment to manufacture photovoltaic modules and cells worldwide, today reported record revenues for the year ended December 31, 2008 of $68.7 million, a 85% increase from $37.1 million in 2007. In addition, the Company recorded a $6.8 million gain on a contract termination resulting in net income of $4.8 million or $0.56 per diluted share for the year, compared with a net loss of $1.9 million, or $0.23 per diluted share, for 2007. We had an operating loss for the year of $267,000 before the gain on the contract termination.

Spire’s revenues for the fourth-quarter ended December 31, 2008 were $19.7 million, an increase of 69% from $11.6 million in the fourth-quarter of 2007, a record for the Company. Net income for the quarter was $5.1 million or $0.61 per diluted share, compared to a net loss of $1.1 million or $0.13 per share for the fourth-quarter of 2007. We had an operating loss of $878,000 in the fourth-quarter of 2008 before the gain on the contract termination.

Below the operating line for 2008, other expenses were $1.45 million which included a non-cash loss of $807,000 from our unconsolidated investment in our joint venture, Gloria Spire Solar, net interest expense of $212,000 and a foreign exchange loss of $430,000. For the fourth-quarter of 2008, other expenses totaled $491,000 compared to $95,000 for the same period last year. A provision of $270,000 for income taxes was made for 2008 compared to a benefit of $877,000 in 2007 due to a net operating loss for the year.

Net cash flow from operating activities was $5.5 million for the year ended 2008 compared to an operating cash flow loss of $7.3 million for the same period last year. At year-end 2008, Spire had $6.0 million in unrestricted cash and cash equivalent.

Roger G. Little, Chairman and CEO, said, “The fourth-quarter of 2008 was our eighth straight quarter of record revenue growth, mostly coming from solar turnkey lines and equipment. We delivered turnkey lines to India, Taiwan, China, and the United States. We also received a $54 million contract to supply solar cells to one of our customers, the Federal Prison Industries for two years.”

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Solar: Piper Sees $30B China Green Stimulus Program

Filed under: CSIQ — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 3:58 pm

Posted by Eric Savitz
barrons.com

The solar stocks are having another big day, thanks to bullish note from Piper Jaffray’s Jesse Pichel on the prospects for a big Chinese subsidy program for renewable energy.

“While we can confirm that recent news about new solar subsidies from the [Chinese] Department of Construction is too premature to quantify, our checks indicate where there is smoke there is fire,” he writes. “Recent announcements are just the tip of the iceberg.” He writes that contacts at the National Development and Reform Commission say the country is planning a $30 billion, four-year green stimulus program. According to Pichel, the Chinese government at this point has not decided how to allocate the funds. He contends the program is a positive for solar stocks long-term, but that it is too early to quantify the impact on the solar sector, and that it will be “more of a 2010/2011 story.”

Pichel says the $30 billion would be about 5% of the country’s overall stimulus program, and would include projects that involve clean tech, renewables and environmental protection, and that increase energy efficiency and decrease energy consumption. All of the cash would be spent by late 2012 or early 2013.

Pichel says that “although wind may represent the majority of central government support, we believe that the Chinese government wishes to start developing its domestic solar market” and that the recently disclosed subsidy program is just the start. “It is no loner a matter of if, but a matter of when subsidies for solar are coming…and how much.”

He also notes that there could be additional spending coming from local authorities in China, with Jiangsu Province recently unveiling plans for a 260 MW solar subsidy plan over three years.

In connection with the broader call, Pichel upped his rating on Canadian Solar (CSIQ) to Neutral from Sell, and increased his price target to $6 from $3.

Solar Thin Films Retains Strategic Growth International, Inc. as Investor-Relations Advisor

Filed under: SLTZ — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 2:05 pm

Tuesday March 31, 2009, 2:05 pm EDT

DIX HILLS, NY–(MARKET WIRE)–Mar 31, 2009 — Solar Thin Films, Inc. (SLTN.OB), a developer, manufacturer and marketer of manufacturing equipment for the production of “thin-film” amorphous silicon photovoltaic, solar modules, has retained Strategic Growth International, Inc. (“SGI”), to perform certain U.S. and international investor-relations functions to increase awareness of Solar Thin Films in the investment community.

Regarding the announcement, Solar Thin Films Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Robert Rubin, stated, “Given our plans for rapid growth in the coming months, it was important for us to be represented internationally by a major investor relations firm that is well known and respected by investors in leading growth-companies. SGI’s expertise will help us to identify institutions internationally that recognize the value of our competitive advantage and the rapid growth opportunities that exist for ‘alternative energy’ related companies like Solar Thin Films. Leading the account for SGI is Stanley Altschuler, President and co-founder of Strategic Growth International. As we continue to expand our business and achieve our milestones we look forward to sharing our progress with the investment community worldwide.”

About Strategic Growth International

Founded in 1989, SGI is headed by Stanley Altschuler and Richard Cooper, two long-time and highly respected Wall Street veterans, who have assembled an experienced team of investment/financial professionals to serve the clients. Since its inception in 1989, Strategic Growth has achieved an unparalleled success for over two hundred clients.

Applied Materials Statement on European Patent Office Decision Revoking University of Neuchatel Patent

Filed under: AMAT — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 10:55 am

Tuesday March 31, 2009, 10:55 am EDT

SANTA CLARA, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–In an oral decision issued today, the European Patent Office (EPO) revoked European Patent No. EP 0 871 979 issued to the University of Neuchatel (the Neuchatel patent), which pertains to solar photovoltaic (PV) technology. The Neuchatel patent is the subject of a lawsuit filed in Germany by OC Oerlikon Balzers AG, Liechtenstein alleging patent infringement against an Applied Materials (AMAT) thin film solar customer.

Following oral proceedings held on March 31 in Berlin, Germany, the EPO panel ruled that the Neuchatel patent is invalid in its entirety and accordingly revoked the patent. The University of Neuchatel may appeal this decision to an EPO Board of Appeal.

Applied Materials’ product offering for manufacturing thin film solar PV modules – the Applied SunFab™ line – is a fully integrated production line that delivers leading-edge manufacturing capability using advanced engineering, process equipment, diagnostics, automation and emissions abatement systems. Adapted from production-proven processes including Applied’s market-leading PECVD system, the SunFab line is the only production line for manufacturing ultra-large 5.7 m2 thin film solar PV modules. Each line can be configured with single or tandem junction technology and is optimized to lower customers’ manufacturing costs.

Akeena Solar Announces Supplier Relationship and US License With MS Solar Solutions Corp. for Andalay AC Solar Panel

Filed under: AKNS — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 10:34 am

Two Leaders Will Collaborate On Low-Income Housing Units and Large Tract Home Projects

Tuesday March 31, 2009, 10:34 am EDT

LOS GATOS, Calif., March 31, 2009 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Akeena Solar (AKNS), one of the leading installers of solar power systems, today announced that it will be the exclusive solar panel supplier for two years to MS Solar Solutions Corp. (“MSSS”), a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley’s Commodities group, for projects resulting from MSSS’ efforts to outfit low-income households nationwide with Akeena’s proprietary Andalay AC solar panels. MSSS will also have the option to purchase Andalay AC panels for their sales efforts to large tract homebuilders. As part of the agreement, Akeena Solar has granted a royalty-bearing limited US license to MSSS for the manufacture and sale of Andalay AC panels.

Akeena Solar will provide their Andalay AC panels to MSSS for the low income market, and in turn, MSSS will buy all of its solar panel requirements for projects related to low-income housing from Akeena. MSSS will partner with governmental and local community groups to install the Andalay AC panels on low-income properties to provide solar-generated electricity to low-income families. The combination of green job creation, improved green energy usage in the low-income housing sector and expanded renewable energy generation achieves several of goals sought by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The agreement terms also provide MSSS with the option to purchase Andalay AC panels from Akeena or from Akeena’s manufacturers, with Akeena Solar receiving a royalty payment. MSSS is targeting low-income housing installations in a number of US states over the next two years. Their first low-income project is scheduled to begin construction in California in April.

“We’re excited to have found the ideal solar panel solution for these projects with Akeena Solar’s Andalay AC solar panels,” said Morgan Stanley Vice President Martin Mobley. “Andalay’s simplified and fully integrated design provides households with reliable green power while also enabling us to efficiently train ordinary workers to install them.”

Andalay AC panels are ideally suited for building a green workforce, especially for unskilled workers who are unfamiliar with installing high-voltage DC power systems. The new Andalay AC panels eliminate the complicated racking, DC wiring and high-voltage components found with ordinary solar systems, while reducing the overall system parts count by up to 80 percent. The result is a simplified installation process that can cut installation time in half. Moreover, the inverters built into each Andalay AC panel will reduce the effects of shading and panel mismatch — which can boost overall energy output by up to 5 to 25 percent.

“This partnership with MS Solar Solutions allows Akeena Solar to expand our distribution of Andalay panels and reach market segments we would not otherwise be able to scalably address as an installer,” said Akeena Solar CEO Barry Cinnamon. “Together we are able to make clean, renewable energy a reality for low-income residents who could not otherwise benefit from it — an important facet of both Akeena Solar’s and MS Solar Solution’s goal of furthering solar energy adoption.”

About Morgan Stanley and MSSS

Morgan Stanley (MS) is a leading global financial services firm providing a wide range of investment banking, securities, investment management and wealth management services. The Firm’s employees serve clients worldwide including corporations, governments, institutions and individuals from more than 600 offices in 37 countries. Morgan Stanley conducts its commodities business through Morgan Stanley Capital Group Inc. and its subsidiaries, including MS Solar Solutions Corp. For further information about Morgan Stanley, please visit http://www.morganstanley.com.

First Solar: J.P. Morgan Cuts Ests; Advises Taking Profits

Filed under: FSLR — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 10:02 am

Posted by Eric Savitz
barrons.com

First Solar (FSLR) may not make its solar cells from polysilicon, but the company is nonetheless feeling the heat from the rapidly crumbling prices for silicon-based solar products.

J.P. Morgan analyst Christopher Blansett this morning slashed his estimates on the company for precisely that reason. “We believe the Street is underestimating the scope of the problems that the solar energy industry and First Solar are facing this year with significantly higher commercial lending rates and lower overall global subsidization driving down demand,” he writes. “We are now thinking of the solar energy sector in terms of a growth cyclical perspective and believe it will take 2-3 quarters to burn off excess inventory.”

Blansett asserts that Street expectations for solar energy stocks remain too high. While many investors expect U.S. government loan programs to have a big impact on solar system demand this year, Blansett writes that he is “more pessimistic on the speed of the federal government and think that solar project financing form this program is more likely to be a 2010 event.” Meanwhile, he adds, the industry is “massively over-supplied,” with a risk of spot module prices falling below $2/watt. Blansett asserts that FSLR will have to cut prices to remain sold out this year, “an obvious negative impact on profitability.”

Blansett slashed his 2009 EPS estimate for FSLR to $4.43, from $5.65. For 2010, he sees $4.77. That puts his estimates far below the Street consensus at $6.58 for this year, and $8.38 for next year.

The analyst also cuts his price target on the stock to $92, from $102. And while he maintains an Overweight rating, he also writes that he recommends investors trim positions on recent strength. “The news of a pending Chinese solar PV subsidy is a great opportunity to use a spike in optimism to lower your exposure to the sector,” he writes. “We believe interested investors will be able to buy solar stocks at lower price points later in the year, potentially at discounted rates on secondary stock issuances as we believe a number of companies will need to raise funds within the next 12 months.”

FSLR today is down $4.14, or 3%, to $132.62.

ICP Solar Announces Business Update

Filed under: ICPR — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 8:00 am

Key Operating Metrics All Pointing in Positive Direction

Tuesday March 31, 2009, 8:00 am EDT

MONTREAL–(BUSINESS WIRE)–ICP Solar Technologies Inc. (ICPR.OB), a developer, manufacturer and marketer of proprietary solar panels and products, today announced that it continues to see traction in its path to profitability this year. Since the beginning of 2009, the Company has further reduced overhead expenses and increased gross margins, while its order book remains strong. In light of these operational improvements, the Company anticipates holding its first ever earnings conference call on or around April 29th for its fiscal year end. Additional details will be forthcoming.

“We are pleased to report continued improvement in our performance and the underlying fundamentals of our business,” said Sass Peress, CEO. “Our order book remains healthy, and we have seen new orders stay relatively constant as the year progresses. In addition, our Sunsei® GreenMeter® distribution has gone according to plan, and we have several installations up and running flawlessly – with many new products set to be launched in the months ahead thanks to the substantial research and development conducted during the past year. In challenging times such as these, we are gratified to see consumers remain steadfast in their choice of the high-quality Sunsei® and well-recognized Coleman® brands, which fit the needs for versatility, durability, and ease of use in a variety of solar energy applications. ICP Solar sees fiscal 2010 as starting off well, and we look forward to holding our first ever earnings call later next month.”

Hoku and Solarfun Amend Supply Agreement to Realign Prepayment and Shipping Schedules

Filed under: HOKU, SOLF — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 7:30 am

Tuesday March 31, 2009, 7:30 am EDT

POCATELLO, ID and QIDONG, CHINA–(MARKET WIRE)–Mar 31, 2009 — Hoku Materials, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Hoku Scientific, Inc. (HOKU), established to manufacture and sell polysilicon for the solar market, and Solarfun Power Hong Kong Limited, a subsidiary of Solarfun Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (SOLF), an established vertically integrated manufacturer of silicon ingots and wafers, and photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules in China, today announced that they have amended their polysilicon supply contract to modify the timing of when Solarfun is obligated to pay Hoku $23 million in additional prepayments for polysilicon, while adjusting Hoku’s deadlines for commencing shipments to Solarfun. Pricing, volume, and other material terms of the agreement were unchanged.

Solarfun had already paid Hoku $32 million in prepayments through October 2008. Before the amendment, Solarfun was obligated to pay Hoku $18 million by March 31, 2009, and an additional $5 million by March 31, 2010, as a prepayment for polysilicon products. The amendment provides that the $18 million may be paid in installments, including $5 million that was paid on March 30, 2009, $8 million to be paid in July 2009, and $5 million to be paid in increments of $1 million in August and September 2009, and $3 million in October 2009. The $5 million that was payable on March 31, 2010, is now payable in January 2010. In exchange for Hoku’s agreement to adjust the prepayment timing, Solarfun has agreed to extend the date when Hoku is obligated to commence shipments of polysilicon from September 2009 until March 2010. Solarfun has the right to terminate the amended supply agreement if Hoku has not commenced shipments by June 30, 2010, and Hoku has the right to terminate the agreement, and retain all prepayments received, if Solarfun fails to pay any of its future prepayments when due.

“Solarfun is an important relationship,” said Dustin Shindo, chairman and chief executive officer of Hoku Scientific. “We were willing to renegotiate the timing of their near-term prepayments to ensure our mutual long-term success. We still plan to commence customer shipments in the second half of 2009; however, delays in customer payments can impact our plant construction schedule, and we appreciate their flexibility in moving our required delivery dates.”

“We value Hoku’s long-term partnership and appreciate their willingness to renegotiate our existing contract to reflect current prevailing market conditions,” said Solarfun’s chief executive officer, Harold Hoskens.

March 30, 2009

Here Comes The Sun

Filed under: FSLR, LDK, SPWR, STP — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 1:28 pm

March 30, 2009 | By Eric Fox

News from the alternative energy sector has caused a partial stampede by investors back into solar stocks. But one question remains: Has the industry turned a corner?

Chinese Subsidy
The Chinese government recently announced that it would provide a subsidy of 20 yuan ($2.92) per watt to companies that integrate photovoltaic (PV) applications into building projects, with a minimum of 50KWp (kilowatts-peak) per project.

Demand for solar power has been slammed by the recession, the drop in oil prices and restricted credit. According to Gartner, which compiles an annual outlook on the industry, the long-term prospects for demand remain solid. Gartner predicts that
revenue will reach $34 billion by 2013, which is an annual growth rate of 17%. Revenue in 2008 totaled $16 billion.

Stimulus Package
The solar energy sector also stands to benefit from loan subsidies distributed by the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which became law in February 2009. The bill provides $6 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy power generation and transmission projects. The Obama Administration provided a loan guarantee of $535 million for Solyndra, a private company located in California, to construct a solar panel fabrication facility. While these funds certainly will help the growth of the solar industry, it appears that this loan guarantee was devised under a law passed in 2005 – and not from the stimulus program.

Publicly traded companies have experienced the deleterious effects of the decline in demand and the drop in product prices. In its recent quarter, LDK Solar (LDK) reported a write-off of $216.7 million against the cost of inventories due to the rapid fall in the price of solar wafers. The write-off led to negative gross margins for the quarter.

First Solar (FSLR), down only 52% from its 52-week high, arguably has fared the best during the recession. Most investors ascribe this bear market performance to First Solar’s balance sheet. At the end of 2008, the company had $716 million in cash, compared to debt of only $198 million.

Other early signs of a resumption in business involve Suntech Power (STP), which stated during its conference call, that “the order flow is beginning to pick up… [and the company] has around 700-megawatts of orders for 2009.”

SunPower (SPWRA, SPWRB) reported revenue of $401 million for the quarter and GAAP earnings of 35 cents per share. The company provided wide-range revenue guidance of $1.6 billion to $2 billion in for 2009, which reflects the uncertain environment in the industry. However, if the company generates revenue at the low end of the projection, its growth would surpass 2008 revenue numbers by $1.43 billion.

Bottom Line
Solar stocks, the former “momentum stars” of early 2008, have seen fortunes hit rock bottom as the recession hit, which caused momentum investors to desert in droves. Investors who are bullish for solar power over the long-term may want to use this selloff to stake a position in the group.

Entech Solar Announces Change in Strategic Direction

Filed under: ENSL — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 8:00 am

Monday March 30, 2009, 8:00 am EDT

FORT WORTH, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Entech Solar (ENSL), a leading developer of concentrating solar energy systems, today announced that it has suspended its manufacturing operations for its current generation of concentrating solar systems to enable the company to focus all of its resources on the rapid development and commercialization of its next generation products. This decision follows a thorough review of the Company’s go-forward growth strategy.

“The implementation of this change in strategic direction is already underway at Entech, and we have moved aggressively to reduce headcount and costs related to our current manufacturing operations,” said Frank Smith, CEO. “The Board made this strategic decision based on the promise of our next generation solar products, which will offer a significantly higher value proposition to customers and address a larger market, including rooftop applications, versus our current systems. The Company is restructuring itself around this new strategy and is dedicating all resources to ensuring its success.”

“I believe, along with the rest of the Board, that this is the best direction for Entech,” said David Gelbaum, Chairman of the Board. “Entech’s next generation solar concentrating products have the potential to be truly disruptive in the solar space – with improved efficiencies, reduced cost, smaller size, and additional applications. I am confident that the future of the Company lies with this development and am committed to seeing it reach commercialization.”

March 28, 2009

Nightfall Comes to Solar Land

Filed under: ENER, FSLR, LDK, SPWR, STP, WFR, YGE — Tags: , , , , , , — Jason @ 6:00 pm

By BILL ALPERT
barrons.com

A glut of silicon threatens First Solar — and other low-cost panel makers.

A YEAR AGO, REFINED silicon for solar cells cost 450 bucks a kilo on the spot market. You can have it today for closer to 100 and if you wait a month it may be cheaper still. Thanks to the workings of international capitalism, the 90% margins available in last year’s market spurred silicon-factory expansions around the planet. But the new supply arrived just as end-market demand for solar panels got eclipsed by faltering government incentives, lower oil prices and the world financial freeze.

Cheaper solar silicon is of course a great thing for the planet’s living creatures. But solar companies and investors who planned for silicon that was scarce and high-priced must adjust their business models for a glut that looms larger than most anyone expected. New government subsidies will help in the U.S. and in China, which energized solar stocks last week with a plan to help China’s struggling photovoltaic industry. Lower prices will also stimulate sales volumes as solar panels become cost-competitive with fossil-fueled power. The question is whether solar energy’s volume producers will end up resembling the high-margined Intel or the profitless memory-chip makers. “An industry with 30 suppliers would be a nightmare,” says analyst Dan Ries of the brokerage firm Collins Stewart. The “flash-memory market managed to be a nightmare with just 2½ suppliers.”

barronssiliconsupply033009The memory-chip analogy seems most apt. Barron’s duly warned readers last summer (“Forecast: Clouds With Sunshine,” July 21) that supply/demand shifts would hit silicon producers like MEMC Electronic Materials (WFR), which subsequently lost two-thirds of its value. But we supposed that some solar power firms would escape harm. Now it looks as if silicon panels could become so cheap that they even take share from technologies that were lower-cost substitutes — namely, the “thin film” solar panels promoted by First Solar (FSLR) and Energy Conversion Devices (ENER).

A key selling point of thin-film panels is their reduced use of costly materials like silicon: a 97% reduction, in most thin-film technologies. Now that silicon is cheaper, First Solar is hustling around to investor conferences explaining how it aims to fly under silicon’s descending cloud ceiling (see the bottom chart to the left). Some silicon panels have already become cheaper than the products of Energy Conversion. Sadly, First Solar’s margins and its premium stock multiple of 22 times this year’s estimates seem fated to decline. Energy Conversion will likely revert to the losses that dogged it for almost 50 years, leaving little solid value in the 15.77 stock except its net cash of $3.30 a share. Neither company responded to our repeated inquiries about cheap silicon.

From the start of the transistor era in the 1950s, the price of purified silicon mainly rose and fell with the tides of the semiconductor industry. Then in 2003, Germany jump-started a worldwide solar boom with an environmental imperative that its utilities subsidize solar-power providers. That one nation’s utility customers underwrote half the world’s solar panel sales until 2008, when even richer incentives appeared in Spain. In just August and September of last year, Spain’s solar developers hooked up over a gigawatt of solar modules — equivalent to the output of a small nuclear plant. “Spain last year was essentially Germany on steroids,” says Daniel Englander, a researcher with Greentech Media. “They were willing to pay a euro per watt more than the Germans were…which totally messed-up pricing.”

Those guarantees sent developers scrambling for solar panels, and sent solar-panel makers like SunPower (SPWRA, SPWRB), Q-Cells and Suntech Power (STP) scrambling for silicon. In the three years through June of last year, module maker Yingli Green Energy (YGE) reported that its contract price for silicon rose over 400%. It was a heady time to be a silicon refiner. With production costs of $30 to $40 per kilo, sales at spot- market prices of $450 could yield 90% margins for low-cost producers like Hemlock Semiconductor (a joint venture of Dow Corning and Japanese partners), Wacker-Chemie or MEMC. Cash-flow margins for Munich-based Wacker rose last year from 40% to 50%. Even a new manufacturer like China’s GCL Silicon Technology Holdings showed gross margins of more than 75% when it filed a registration to come public in the U.S.

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March 27, 2009

Solar: Is China Subsidy Limited to BIPV Installations?

Filed under: LDK, STP, YGE — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 4:25 pm

Posted by Eric Savitz
barrons.com

There’s one nagging bit of uncertainty about China’s solar subsidy program which could make a big difference in terms of which companies might benefit as result.

The issue is what types of installations are included in the program: as I noted in my rundown on Street reaction to the news, Hapoalim Securities analyst Gordon Johnson asserted that the program only covered what are known as “building integrated photovoltaic panels,” or BIPVs. That interpretation would suggestion the program is primarily targeted at new construction, rather than after-market installation on existing commercial buildings. (The program clearly does not address residential or utility applications.)

The focus on BIPV would explain the continued strong performance of Suntech (STP), which Johnson notes is the primary BIPV player in China.

Research firm Wedge Partners asserted in a research note today likewise asserted that the 20 RMB/watt subsidy program is specifically for BIPV installations of at least 50 KW. Wedge contends the program is focused on off-grid installations, and that “grid connection for solar power will not be feasible in China for at least two more years,” asserting China’s power grid is “poorly equipped to manage the variable power generated by solar installations. Wedge likewise noted that Suntech and Yingli Green Energy (YGE) are the leading China-based BIPV players.

Gabelli & Co. analyst John Segrich today upped his rating on Suntech to Buy from Sell; he also moved to Hold from Sell on LDK Solar (LDK). Segrich also notes that Suntech is “one of the only players” in China offering a BIPV panel.

I asked Collins Stewart analyst Daniel Ries about the lack of clarity on the role of BIPV installations in the China subsidy program; he responded that “the wording did not make it very clear,” but did refer to “building integrated” installations. “Most BIPV is associated new new construction, such as cells in flass in an atrium,” he reports. “It is very hard to retrofit an existing building.” Ries says his contacts say that a separate ground-based solar program in China could coming, but that the timing is uncertain.

Ohio firm gears up for solar panel production

Filed under: FSLR — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 1:51 pm

3/27/2009 1:51:03 PM

By Gary T. Pakulski, The Blade

TOLEDO, OHIO: One year ago, a small group of veterans of Toledo’s glass and solar-panel production industries set up shop in a former television components factory in Perrysburg.

Now, it is making plans to begin commercial production of 2 million solar panels annually.

The company, Willard & Kelsey Solar Group LLC, earned a thumbs up from Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland yesterday.

After touring the 262,000-square foot plant off State Rt. 25, Mr. Strickland predicted the firm will become a “major player” in the solar-energy components industry.

“The fact that we have a new company like this with a highly efficient product to create energy … is very exciting,” Mr. Strickland said. Ohio officials are providing a $5 million economic development loan and a $500,000 grant to the company.

Willard & Kelsey is seeking $100 million in federal stimulus money to support a proposed $1.2 billion solar-panel manufacturing park in Perrysburg that it claims will create nearly 3,700 jobs.

For now, company officials are concentrating on the existing $14 million plant.

Willard & Kelsey had hoped to launch production last year, but was delayed by the nation’s credit crisis, Perrysburg municipal officials have been told.

But executives of the company, which is one of at least four firms making solar panels in metro Toledo or researching low-cost thin-film panel production here, say they are ready to move forward.

In his first extensive public comments, Chief Executive William R. Mitchell said that trial production will begin in the coming weeks and that full-scale manufacturing will start in the next seven to eight months.

Hiring will be handled by the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services. The firm hopes to hire 400 employees by the end of 2009. The firm told the state the jobs would have an average wage of $21 an hour.

The firm’s panels, which will use low-cost technology similar to that used at a nearby factory of Arizona-based First Solar Inc. (FSLR), expects to submit the panels for certification next month to Underwriters Laboratory and other certifying organizations, Mr. Mitchell said.

He would not comment on whether the firm will be able to make panels more cheaply than First Solar, whose low-cost technology has made it one of the top producers in the world.

But Mr. Mitchell said the proprietary method used by Willard & Kelsey to chemically coat glass panels requires 70 percent less energy than the process at First Solar.

Willard & Kelsey expects to operate around the clock, Mr. Mitchell said.

The firm is in final discussions with an undisclosed prospective customer that is interested in buying all of the panels the firm can produce over the next two to three years, he added.

The Willard & Kelsey firm now employs 34 people. All, except Mr. Mitchell, are veterans of First Solar or Glasstech Inc., another Toledo company involved in the glass industry, the chief executive said. The late industrialist Harold McMaster, a pioneer in solar-panel technology, founded both First Solar and Glasstech.

Willard & Kelsey was started by Michael Cicak, a Glasstech veteran. Willard & Kelsey’s name comes from an intersection in East Toledo near where he grew up. Mr. Cicak serves as company chairman. James Appold, president of Consolidated Biscuit Co., is vice chairman. Company officials said a year ago they had $22 million from private investors.

The work of Mr. McMaster, pioneering research at the University of Toledo, and success of First Solar’s first plant in Perrysburg have earned Toledo a reputation as a leading center of low-cost solar panel technology.

Another firm, Xunlight Corp., plans to begin production in Toledo. And a unit of German solar giant Q-Cells AG has a research operation in Perrysburg.

Analysts are cautious on the solar stock rally

Filed under: AKNS, FSLR, JASO, SOLF, SPWR, STP, TSL, YGE — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 11:22 am

U.S.-listed shares of Chinese solar manufacturers give back gains

By Steve Gelsi, MarketWatch
Last update: 11:22 a.m. EDT March 27, 2009

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) – Solar stocks on Friday gave back a big chunk of their eye-popping gains from the previous session as analysts sounded a cautious note on a rally sparked by an unexpected subsidy by China for its solar power industry.

Jefferies clean technology analysts Paul Clegg and Michael McNamara said Friday that a report on the Chinese Finance Ministry’s Web site indicated that the government will offer a sizeable subsidy for the cost of installing solar arrays.

“This news may be incrementally positive for Chinese solar companies, but should still be treated with caution, given the surge in share prices, [and] the lack of key details about the subsidy structure,” the Jefferies analysts said.

Shares of Suntech Power (STP) fell 9.7% to $10.19, the day after the leading China-based solar-module manufacturer, vaulted 44% to $11.29.

Solarfun Power Holdings Co. Ltd. (SOLF) dropped 12% to $4.48, giving back a chunk of its rise of 42% on Thursday.

China Technology Development Group Corp. (CTDC) retreated 6% to $2.34, after gaining 13% on Thursday. JA Solar (JASO) fell 10% to $3.41 after rallying 42%. Trina Solar (TSL) dropped 12% to $10.73 on Friday, Yingli Green (YGE) dropped 8% to $5.52 and Akeena Solar (AKNS) declined 6% to $1.10.

Even U.S.-based solar firms got in on the act, with First Solar (FSLR) down nearly 5% to $143.37, the day after it rose 12%. SunPower (SPWRA, SPWRB) fell 7% to $24.80, after gaining 11%.

Jefferies noted that many details are missing in the subsidy plan, including the timing of the first payment, the limit of the program size, how the program will look in 2010 and conditions to qualify for the subsidy.

“If we take the subsidy at face value and assume no onerous conditions, it could lead to a near- or medium-term surge in Chinese demand for modules,” Jefferies said.

The analysts concluded by recommending investors focus on the “operational stability” offered by First Solar. “We believe First Solar is best positioned to weather the storm,” they said.

Meanwhile analysts at RBC Capital Markets and Friedman Billings Ramsey echoed much of the sentiment at Jefferies about the Chinese credit.

“We view the Chinese domestic subsidy action as an unexpected boost to global demand,” RBC said. “Uncertainties persist, however….We also do not know if China will dictate a domestic-produced requirement as they have done for the wind industry.”

First Solar: Collins Stewart Downgrades On Valuation

Filed under: FSLR — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 10:46 am

Posted by Eric Savitz
barrons.com

Collins Stewart solar analyst Daniel Ries this morning cut his rating on First Solar (FSLR) to Hold from Buy on a valuation basis after a recent rally that took the stock up nearly 39% in less than three weeks. Yesterday alone, the stock jumped $16.41, or 12.2%, to $150.39, a level last seen in early January.

He writes this morning that with the rally, the stock “has reached a point where we find the risk/reward more balanced.” Ries asserts that despite the news yesterday on China’s solar subsidies, “it remains a challenging environment for the solar industry.” He notes that ASPs are falling, financing is difficult to obtain in many markets and “businesses are reluctant to tie up funds in a solar project in the midst of a weak economy.” On the China subsidies, he says that the program is not likely to meaningfully alter the demand for FSLR’s products or correct the polysilicon oversupply he expects to continue through the end of 2010.

FSLR today is off $6.39, or 4.3%, to $144.

Suntech’s Breakthrough Pluto Technology Achieves Efficiencies of 19% on Mono- crystalline PV Cells and 17% on Multi-crystalline PV Cells in Production

Filed under: STP — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 8:30 am

Conversion Efficiencies Independently Verified by the Fraunhofer Institute

Friday March 27, 2009, 8:30 am EDT

SAN FRANCISCO and WUXI, China, March 27 /PRNewswire-Asia/ — Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (STP), the world’s largest photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturer, today announced that it is routinely utilizing the Pluto technology to produce PV cells with conversion efficiencies of approximately 19% on mono-crystalline PV cells and 17% on multi-crystalline PV cells.

Suntech recently sent a number of Pluto PV cells to the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Germany for third party verification. The Fraunhofer Institute test results included a mono-crystalline Pluto PV cell with a conversion efficiency of 18.8% and a multi-crystalline Pluto PV cell with a conversion efficiency of 17.2%. Both PV cells were produced on Suntech’s 34MW Pluto production line utilizing solar grade silicon wafers.

Dr. Stuart Wenham, Suntech’s Chief Technology Officer said, “We are very excited about the performance of the Pluto technology. We are consistently achieving around 19% conversion efficiency on Pluto mono-crystalline PV cells and around 17% on Pluto multi-crystalline PV cells in large scale production, compared to 16.5% and 15.5% respectively using conventional screen-printed technology.”

Dr. Wenham added, “The ability of the Pluto technology to significantly improve the conversion efficiency of both mono and multi-crystalline silicon PV cells is one of its unique characteristics. This will give Suntech the flexibility to offer a complete range of high efficiency solar products. In particular, we believe that Suntech’s multi-crystalline Pluto modules will be one of the most efficient multi-crystalline silicon PV modules in commercial scale production world-wide.”

Dr. Zhengrong Shi, Suntech’s Chairman and CEO said, “Pluto delivers on the key requirements of the solar industry — high efficiency, high stability, and high power output — without utilizing higher grades of silicon. With Pluto-enabled Suntech products, our customers will realize improvements in space utilization and reduced balance of system costs, without increasing the cost of production, making Pluto well suited to commercial scale production and roof top applications.”

The patent-pending Pluto technology is based on the PERL technology, developed by the University of NSW in Australia, which has achieved a world record efficiency of 25% in the laboratory. Pluto should improve power output by approximately 12% above conventional screen-printed PV cells. Unique texturing technology, with lower reflectivity, ensures more sunlight can be absorbed throughout the day even without direct solar radiation, and thinner metal lines on the top surface reduces shading loss. Suntech’s Pluto technology can be applied to a variety of grades of silicon to suit multiple applications and product types.

Dr. Shi added, “The commercialization of the Pluto technology is the result of years of world-class research and development and is a milestone achievement for Suntech. With over 350 professionals in our R&D team spanning three countries, technology is a central element of our strategy to drive the cost of solar towards grid parity without incentives. Aside from developing high conversion efficiency PV cells, our R&D team is also engaged in the development of new solar applications and building integrated products, material and component optimization, encapsulation technology, and power output optimization and stabilization.”

Suntech anticipates ongoing enhancement of the Pluto technology and targets to achieve 20% conversion efficiency on mono-crystalline PV cells and 18% on multi-crystalline PV cells within the next two years. Suntech currently has a fully operational 34MW Pluto PV cell line and targets to have a total of 100MW installed Pluto capacity within the next two months. Suntech expects to receive industry certification for Pluto PV modules in the second quarter of 2009 and targets to ship more than 50MW of Pluto modules in 2009. “Pluto” is a trademark of Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd.

First Solar falls on downgrade

Filed under: FSLR — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 8:11 am

First Solar shares slide after analyst downgrades stock to “Sell”

Friday March 27, 2009, 8:11 am EDT

NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of First Solar Inc. (FSLR) fell in premarket trading Friday after an analyst lowered his rating on the solar panel maker, citing continued declines in average selling prices, credit market constraints and a weak economy that has prompted businesses to recoil from spending on solar projects.

Shares fell $2.62, or nearly 2 percent, to $147.77 in premarket dealings on Friday.

Collins Stewart analyst Dan Ries said that despite news on Thursday that China may unleash new subsidies for solar power installations, the solar industry remains challenging.

“We do not believe the program in China will meaningfully alter the demand for First Solar product or correct the polysilicon oversupply situation we forecast for 2009 and 2010,” Ries said, as he downgraded the company to “Hold” from “Buy.”

Ries assigned First Solar a price target of $150.39.

Solar stocks had jumped Thursday on news of China’s potential solar subsidies, which Piper Jaffray analyst Jesse Pichel said entailed a proposal for a subsidy that he said may cover more than 60 percent of the cost to install the large solar panel system.

Suntech Turns Off Lights to Support Earth Hour 2009

Filed under: STP — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 8:00 am

Global Employees Join Call for Action on Climate Change

Friday March 27, 2009, 8:00 am EDT

SAN FRANCISCO and WUXI, China, March 27 /PRNewswire-Asia/ — Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (STP), the world’s largest photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturer, today announced that it will turn off lights of its solar headquarters in Wuxi, China from 8:30pm to 9:30pm on Saturday March 28, 2009 in support of WWF’s Earth Hour campaign.

“Earth Hour sends a powerful message about the urgent need to protect the future of our planet through energy conservation and sustainable development,” said Dr. Zhengrong Shi, Suntech’s Chairman and CEO. “This is an opportunity to draw attention to climate change concerns and motivate people, businesses and governments to consider sustainable alternatives. There are many viable renewable energy solutions, such as solar, that can generate clean energy and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and we should accelerate adoption of these solutions now.”

Around 500 Suntech employees, customers, partners and government officials will hold an event themed “What do we do if the Earth has no electricity?” in front of the Suntech headquarters 1MW solar facade in Wuxi, China to support the Earth Hour campaign. The Suntech headquarters and nearby buildings will simultaneously turn off lights and conventional energy sources for 1 hour and rely only on green energy generated and stored from the solar facade. In addition, Suntech staff from global offices will also switch off lights at 8:30pm on March 28 to reduce their carbon footprint and enjoy the Earth without energy.

Suntech is committed to utilizing energy efficient technologies at home. Suntech’s state of the art solar headquarters in Wuxi, China incorporates the world’s largest on-grid photovoltaic facade system, with over 2,552 semi-transparent solar panels and an annual power output of over 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity. The solar energy produced will save over 600 tons of carbon emissions every year. In addition, the headquarters features energy efficient building materials, geothermal temperature control, movement sensor lighting and a comprehensive water recycling system.

“We are greatly encouraged to see that governments the world over are increasingly recognizing the importance of action to prevent climate change,” added Dr. Shi. “China’s new subsidy for building integrated solar solutions is an excellent example of this, and a strong demonstration of its commitment to improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions.” China’s Ministry of Finance recently announced a subsidy of 20RMB per watt for building integrated solar systems above 50kW that will support the roll out of solar in China.

About Earth Hour

Earth Hour is a global WWF climate change initiative. The WWF-led campaign, organised in conjunction with Fairfax Media and award-winning advertising agency Leo Burnett, invites individuals, businesses, governments and communities to turn out their lights for one hour on Saturday March 28, 2009 at 8:30pm to show their support for action on climate change. The event began in Sydney in 2007, when 2 million people switched off their lights. In 2008, more than 50 million people around the globe participated. In 2009, Earth Hour aims to reach out to 1 billion people in 1,000 cities. For more information please visit http://www.earthhour.org/ .

About WWF

WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost five million supporters and a global network active in more than 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

Yingli Green Energy Announces Potential New Credit Facilities

Filed under: YGE — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 7:00 am

Friday March 27, 2009, 7:00 am EDT

BAODING, China, March 27 /PRNewswire-Asia-FirstCall/ — Yingli Green Energy Holding Company Limited (YGE; “Yingli Green Energy” or the “Company”), one of the world’s leading vertically integrated photovoltaic (“PV”) product manufacturers, today announced that Baoding Yingli Group Company Limited (“Yingli Group”), an affiliate of the Company, has entered into a strategic cooperation agreement with the Hebei Branch of Bank of China, which contemplates potential credit facilities in the aggregate maximum amount of RMB 6 billion to be granted to entities affiliated with Yingli Group, including three PRC subsidiaries of Yingli Green Energy.

Under the terms of the strategic cooperation agreement, subject to internal procedures to be conducted in accordance with its risk management and operational regulations, the Hebei Branch of Bank of China expects to grant, among other credit facilities, (i) credit facilities with an aggregate maximum amount of RMB 2 billion to Baoding Tianwei Yingli New Energy Resources Co., Ltd., a 74%-owned subsidiary of Yingli Green Energy, (ii) credit facilities with an aggregate maximum amount of RMB 1.5 billion to Yingli Energy (China) Co., Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Yingli Green Energy, and (iii) credit facilities with an aggregate maximum amount of RMB 1.8 billion to Fine Silicon Co., Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Yingli Green Energy. In addition to the internal procedures to be conducted by the Hebei Branch of Bank of China, each of the three PRC subsidiaries of Yingli Green Energy will need to negotiate the detailed terms of the credit facilities and related credit agreements before the relevant credit facilities may be granted. Therefore, no assurance can be given that the credit facilities will be eventually granted to these PRC subsidiaries of Yingli Green Energy as currently contemplated in the strategic cooperation agreement or at all.

“We are pleased that Yingli Group has entered into this strategic cooperation agreement, which we believe will benefit us in helping us secure additional credit facilities, thereby providing us additional financial resources to expand our PV production capacity, commence our polysilicon production and further strengthen our capital position as well as providing us with additional flexibility in business and financial planning,” commented Mr. Zongwei Li, Chief Financial Officer of Yingli Green Energy. “In order to maintain cash flow flexibility in this challenging economic environment, we will continue to actively source long- and short-term financings both domestically and internationally.”

March 26, 2009

Solar Sector Radiates Hope For Chinese Subsidy

Filed under: FSLR, JASO, SPWR, STP, TSL — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 6:25 pm

Melinda Peer, 03.26.09, 06:25 PM EDT

Beijing intends to support solar power with generous payments that could strengthen the sector.

News that the Chinese government plans to subsidize solar power installations spread optimistic rays across the industry on Thursday, energizing shares of companies that have suffered from weak pricing and tight credit markets.

On Thursday, the Chinese government said sun-powered projects producing more than 50 kilowatts in energy output qualify for government-provided funding equal to 20 yuan ($2.92) per watt.

“This level of subsidy is substantial given that even in Germany panels are today being sold at close to 2 euros/Wp ($2.70),” said JPMorgan analyst Sandeep Deshpande, referring to watts peak, or maximum power output. “Thus the Chinese government will virtually fund the entire panel, which seems an extremely high upfront subsidy.”

The American depositary reciepts of Chinese solar companies soared on the news and closed Thursday’s trading session significantly higher. Trina Solar (TSL) added $3.54, or 40.8%, to close at $12.19, Suntech Power Holdings (STP)’ shares gained $3.44, or 43.8%, to $11.29, and JA Solar Holdings (JASO) closed ahead by $1.11, or 41.7%, at $3.77.

Deshpande sees the potential for significant growth in solar demand based on similar subsidy plans in Germany and Spain and also sees rising prices for solar panels, which have suffered from an inventory glut.

“Polysilicon pricing had started to collapse in 2008’s fourth quarter due to the oversupply of panels and inventories of Chinese manufactured modules in European markets. The Chinese subsidy program will increase domestic demand in China and will help pricing of panels and potentially stabilize polysilicon prices,” Deshpande said but advised investors to be cautious until the Chinese government reveals specific requirements of the plan.

Shares of U.S. solar companies also closed Thursday’s session broadly higher. First Solar (FSLR)’s stock gained $16.41, or 12.3%, at $150.39 and SunPower (SPWRA, SPWRB) shares added $2.64, or 11.0%, to close at $26.68.

Although President Barack Obama has yet to detail specific solar subsidies for the United States, he has put forth a broad plan to invest $150.0 billion in clean energy initiatives, including specific loans for wind and solar projects, and intends to make sure that 10.0% of U.S.’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012 and 25.0% by 2025.

Solar shares rally on new Chinese subsidy

Filed under: CSIQ, FSLR, LDK, SOLF, SPWR, STP, TSL, YGE — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 2:56 pm

Thu Mar 26, 2009 2:56pm EDT

NEW YORK, March 26 (Reuters) – Shares of solar companies rallied sharply on Thursday after the Chinese government said it would launch a generous new subsidy for the clean power systems.

Chinese-based companies were the biggest gainers, with Trina Solar Ltd (TSL) up 40 percent at $12.14 per share, Suntech Power Holdings (STP), up 40 percent at $10.96, LDK Solar Co (LDK), up 36 percent at $8.00, Yingli Green Energy (YGE) up 39 percent at $5.75, Solarfun Power Holdings (SOLF) up 26 percent at $4.48 and Canadian Solar (CSIQ), up 23 percent at $5.95.

Those shares had been hard hit so far this year as financing for new solar projects dried up, but the news that China would move to support the industry spurred hopes that the government could open up a potentially huge market for the industry.

“This is a pleasant bit of news out in what has been a quite bleak time for the solar industry. The numbers are quite substantive,” said Edward Guinness, co-manager of the Guinness-Atkinson Alternative Energy Fund which owns shares in several solar companies.

According to a statement on a Chinese government website, solar projects larger than 50 kilowatts of output will be eligible for a subsidy of about $2.90 per watt.

“We believe meaningful upside potential exists if government support for domestic solar sector continues,” a Barclays analyst wrote in a research note, adding the move could boost Chinese demand by about 200 megawatts starting in the second half of 2009, a nearly four-fold increase from Barclays’ projection for this year.

China is home to several solar power companies, but most of the sales are to Germany and Spain, the two largest markets in the world. The United States is the third largest market.

The crisis in financial markets has shut off much of the funding for new projects since late last year, while weakness in the euro versus the dollar has eroded profit margins for companies that sell into the European market.

One analyst said while the news was clearly positive for the solar sector, many details had yet to emerge.

“Although the subsidy may cover about 60 percent-plus of the cost of installation, it is unclear how much the energy generated from the system will be valued,” Piper Jaffray analyst Jesse Pichel said in a note to investors.

The news also boosted shares of U.S. companies First Solar Inc (FSLR) by 14 percent to $152.96 per share and SunPower Corp (SPWRA, SPWRB) by 15 percent to $27.66, while Germany’s Q-Cells rose 21 percent to 18 euros and Norway’s Renewable Energy Corp (REC) gained 18 percent to 58.40 crowns.

(Reporting by Matt Daily and Wanfeng Zhou in New York and Nichola Groom in Los Angeles, editing by Matthew Lewis)

Solar surged on Chinese subsidies

Filed under: FSLR, JASO, SPWR, STP, TSL — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 2:42 pm

Solar stocks surge as the Chinese central government proposes a subsidy

Thursday March 26, 2009, 2:42 pm EDT

NEW YORK (AP) — Solar stocks surged Thursday on reports that China may roll out new subsidies for solar installations.

Piper Jaffray analyst Jesse Pichel said in a research note that the Chinese central government made the proposal for a subsidy worth $3 a watt for large installations. The subsidy may cover more than 60 percent of the cost to install the solar system.

“This subsidy undoubtedly shows the Chinese government’s strong support for the solar industry,” Pichel said.

Shares of Chinese manufacturer Suntech Power Holdings (STP) spiked $3.27, or 42 percent, to $11.12 a share. Trina Solar Ltd. (TSL) stock also shot up $3.63, or 42 percent, to $12.29. JA Solar Holdings Co. (JASO) shares surged $1.02, or 38 percent, to $3.68.

In the U.S., First Solar, Inc. (FSLR) stock jumped $18.80, or 14 percent, to $152.78 a share. SunPower Corp. (SPWRA, SPWRB) rose $3.87 a share, or 15.1 percent, to $27.91.

Solar stocks struggled earlier this year as the widening recession and tightened credit markets made it tough to build new projects. Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar warned in February of a gloomy sales year in 2009, and said it would help some of its customers pay for their installations.

Solarfun downgraded on forecast

Filed under: SOLF — Tags: , , — Jason @ 8:51 am

Solarfun downgraded to ‘Sell’ on weak forecast for the first half

Thursday March 26, 2009, 8:51 am EDT

NEW YORK (AP) — Chinese solar cell maker Solarfun Power Holdings Co. (SOLF) will likely face losses in the first half of the year as falling module prices, inventory costs and lack of scale will pressure margins, said one analyst as he downgraded the company’s rating.

Collins Stewart analyst Dan Ries lowered his rating for Solarfun to “Sell” from “Hold,” and gave its stock a $2 price target.

Ries said his decision was influenced by the company’s warning that the first half of the year will face challenges, including a decrease in first-quarter shipments, gross margins pressured by high-cost inventory and falling module prices. In addition, the company said for 2009 it has signed contracts for 200 megawatts worth of solar products, but the contracts mainly apply to the second-half of the year.

He also warned that the company’s balance sheet “remains a source of risk and concern, as net cash is negative $291 million and the company indicates that it expects to raise an additional $50 million of debt during 2009.”

Ries lowered his 2009 profit forecast for Solarfun to 14 cents per share, compared with an earlier estimate of 17 cents per share.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters estimated a profit of 1.59 Renminbi per American Depository Share (23 cents per ADS), on average.

Shares of Solarfun closed at $3.57 Wednesday.

March 25, 2009

MEMC: Rumor BASF Bid $27/Shr; Analysts Skeptical

Filed under: WFR — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 2:43 pm

Posted by Eric Savitz
barrons.com

MEMC Electronic Materials (WFR) shares are trading higher today on rumors that the company reiceved a $27-a-share takeover bid from chemicals company BASF. Reuters reported the rumor earlier in the session, and quoted a variety of analysts debunking the idea as unlikely.

Citigroup’s Timothy Arcuri weighed in this afternoon with a note on the notion of a bid for MEMC. Arcuri points out that he has previously suggested the provider of raw polysilicon and silicon wafers could be a target for a chemical company, but he says “BASF doesn’t seem to us like the right match.” He writes that his view on this “is corroborated by checks this morning with both BASF and WFR.”

Arcuri notes that BASF’s chemical business is not as directly complimentary to polysilicon production as other integrated chemicals conglomerates like Germany’s Wacker Chemie and Korea’s DC Chemical, both of which have arms that make polysilicon. He also points out that BASF made two large acquisitions in the last six months and that its flexibility is limited by a fairly leveraged balance sheet, with an 85% net debt-to-equity ratio.

“We are believers that where there is smoke there is usually fire and WFR could eventually be acquired by a large chemicals company,” he writes. “That said, this doesn’t seem to be quite the right match.”

It’s worth noting that MEMC actually started as a unit of a chemical company: MEMC is an acronym for the company’s original name, Monsanto Electronic Materials Company; MEMC is based in St. Peters, Mo., a short drive from Monsanto HQ in St. Louis.

WFR today is up 85 cents, or 5.3%, to $16.93; the stock earlier traded as high as $18.26.

MEMC shares up on takeover chatter

Filed under: WFR — Tags: , , — Jason @ 2:04 pm

Wed Mar 25, 2009 2:04pm EDT

By Bijoy Koyitty and Purwa Naveen Raman

BANGALORE, March 25 (Reuters) – Shares of MEMC Electronic Materials Inc (WFR), which makes silicon wafers for the semiconductor and solar industries, rose as much as 14 percent on speculation that the company received a takeover offer from German chemicals group BASF.

However, analysts said they doubted there was such a proposal and MEMC is not seen as an acquisition target.

“At these price levels, I think the stock is rich, the valuation is high. I think it’s primarily a rumour,” Hapoalim Securities USA analyst Gordon Johnson said by phone.

MEMC is an attractive target at $10 to $12 from a valuation perspective, Johnson said.

MEMC and BASF were not immediately available for comment when contacted by Reuters.

Shares of the company pared some of their early gains and were trading up 6.3 percent at $17.12 in afternoon trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

“I don’t think that MEMC is looked at as an acquisition target because its key end markets are facing significant pressure and I think that any buyer who knows these markets will know that MEMC will reach a lower price later this year,” Johnson said.

The company’s stock has fallen 80 percent in the last one year.

“It is a rumour, it is very hard for us to view this as a strategic situation,” said Ben Pang of Caris & Company.

“MEMC Electronic shares and its call options are active on takeover speculation,” said Frederic Ruffy, options strategist at New York-based Web information site WhatsTrading.com.

Investors are actively buying April calls with strike prices ranging from $17.50 to $22.50, expecting that the stock might continue moving higher over the short term, he said.

So far 22,000 call options, which give buying rights to the company’s shares, have traded in MEMC, more than six times the norm, according to option analytics firm Trade Alert.

MEMC, which has been struggling with continued deterioration in end demand for semiconductor products, had forecast weak first-quarter revenue in January.

(Additional reporting by Doris Frankel; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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