Solar stocks seem to be on the mend. After reporting dismal revenues and earnings forecasts for most of last year and this year, solar stocks have seen some recent respite. Three companies involved with solar reported results in the past couple of weeks. Two solar companies – First Solar, Inc. (FSLR) and SunPower Corporation (SPWR) – reported an improvement in revenue prospects. Furthermore, Tesla, Inc. (TSLA) is set to release its first solar roof for homes today.
On an overall basis, the results are a mixed bag, primarily because an increase in revenues does not necessarily imply an improvement in demand for their products. The prospects for residential solar, the main driver of revenues for the industry, are still bleak for the rest of this year and for next year. Installations at utilities have picked up, but they are yet to plug the revenue shortfall from the decline in residential installations. Meanwhile, solar companies are focused on cutting costs and impairment of existing assets. (See also: A Look at Solar Energy Earnings.)
First Solar is the largest U.S.-based solar manufacturer. It reported a 2 percent increase in revenues to $892 million compared with the same period a year ago. However, that increase was primarily due to a sale of its Moapa Power project to global asset manager Capital Dynamics. First Solar's module sales declined by $179 million. Its gross profit also declined by 22.3 percent compared with the same period a year ago. The company has forecast demand for 3 Gigawatts of solar capacity in the coming quarter and is working on the development of its Series 6 module. However, this move could handicap the company's competitiveness until the Series 6 hits the market because it will be forced to compete while relying on the Series 4 module until then. (See also: Is First Solar a Great Deal or a Trap?)
SunPower beat analyst estimates by reporting revenues of $429.5 million for the quarter and losses of $0.36 per share versus expectations of $366.4 million in revenue and losses of $0.51 per share. The company is realigning its strategy to focus less on financial incentives for customers and more on cash flow from multiple geographies across the world. For investors, this means that the company will move toward reporting its financial results using conventional financial metrics, such as GAAP. After a decline in its cash position (due to project-related investments) during the second quarter, SunPower expects positive cash flow by the end of this fiscal year. The company stated that it expects to end the year with approximately $300 million in cash. (See also: Will the Sun Shine Again on SunPower's Stock?)
Tesla reported gains of $0.07 per share to investors from its SolarCity acquisition last year. That was an improvement from losses of $0.57 per share reported last year. The company's gross margins for its solar business also improved to 29.1 percent from 2.7 percent, primarily resulting from the sale of energy credits. The company has had a couple of wins with utility customers, but it is still playing catch-up with other companies. Much like other players in the solar industry, Tesla intends to shift its residential installation customers to a cash and loan model as opposed to a leasing model for its solar panels. Today, Tesla is set to release its solar roofs – the first product to be released since the company absorbed SolarCity. (See also: Tesla Will Begin Taking Solar Roof Orders Today.)