Monthly Archives: March 2013

Renewable Energy Group Profits Exceed Subsidies

by Debra Fiakas CFA Earlier this month biodiesel producer Renewable Energy Group, Inc. (REGI:  Nasdaq) reported a tidy profit of $22.3 million on record $1.0 billion in total sales.  Reported net income was $43.5 million, including accounting treatments for corporate recapitalization undertaken in the year.  Results from 2012 were noteworthy on a couple of counts.  It was the first time in the company’s ten-year history (including years of operation among predecessor firms) that sales exceeded $1.0 billion.  REGI produced 188 million gallons of biodiesel from a variety of feedstock, including non-edible corn oil, used...

The iCloud’s Green Lining

Meg Cichon Just one year after Greenpeace called out Apple, Inc. (AAPL) for its use of fossil fuels in its "How Green Is Your Cloud" report – which graded Apple no higher than a "D" in four categories consisting of energy transparency, infrastructure siting, energy efficiency, and renewables and advocacy – Apple announced that its data centers are now powered by 100 percent renewable energy. In fact, renewables contribute to 75 percent of its entire corporate operations energy needs, according to its website. The 2012 report cites Apple’s planned expansion into “iDataCenters” to support its booming iCloud services,...

Is Suzlon’s $650m Wind Bond the First of Many?

India had been trying to get a corporate bond market going for 15 years – search “growing India corporate bonds” and you’ll find papers on the subject from the Reserve Bank of India, Bank of International Settlement and others scattered over past years. The latest Indian 5 year plan has this as a priority – and has green finance as a priority in a separate section. India has a particular need: a miniscule local corporate bond market means restricted financing options for business, including for renewable and energy efficient building developers – diversity with financing options helps drive down costs...

Betting on Alternative Fueling at Clean Energy Fuels

by Debra Fiakas CFA   Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE:  Nasdaq) is building a nationwide network of natural gas stations for fleet vehicles.  The company supplies compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel for light, medium, and heavy-duty vehicles; and liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuel for medium and heavy-duty vehicles.  While there is a growing number of fleet owners that have invested in natural gas vehicles, Clean Energy has yet to reach the critical mass needed to reach profitability.  The company claimed 650 fleet owners as customers with over 30,000 vehicles in operation. Clean...

JA Solar and Renesola Rush to Reassure Creditors

Doug Young Mid-sized solar panel makers JA Solar (Nasdaq: JASO) and ReneSola (NYSE: SOL) are both in the news today discussing their finances, in what looks like an attempt to calm the nerves of investors and creditors who are no doubt worried following the bankruptcy forced upon former industry leader Suntech (NYSE: STP) earlier this week. All of these companies have billions of dollars in debt which they used to build up their manufacturing operations over the last decade, and big amounts of that money will be due for repayment in the next 2 years. Meantime, the...

Maxwell’s Misreported Revenue: More to Come

Tom Konrad CFA On March 7th, Maxwell Technologies (NASD:MXWL) announced problems with revenue timing.  Unlike Lime Energy (NASD:LIME), which I discussed in the previous part of this series, there was no hint of any fictitious revenue.  The disclosure was very specific that “The errors relate to the timing of recognition of revenue from sales to certain distributors.”  The announcement went on to discuss “arrangements … regarding the payment terms for sales” at these distributors.  As a result of the discovery, “certain employees were terminated and our Sr. Vice President of Sales and Marketing resigned.”  Maxwell is reviewing deficiencies in...

Misreported Revenue, Part I: Lime Energy

Tom Konrad CFA In my model portfolios of ten clean energy stocks for 2013 andsix alternatives, three companies are currently delaying earnings announcements for various reasons, and at least two of the three will be restating previous results. Many investors flee the scene at the first whiff of accounting problems: All investors rely on a company’s financial statements (directly or indirectly) to value companies.  If there is  any doubt as to the accuracy of those statements, they believe it’s better to invest elsewhere. In contrast, I believe that we never have anything like an accurate picture of what is going on...

Suntech Forced into Bankruptcy, Yingli Partners with GCL

Doug Young The inevitable has finally happened at tanking former solar star Suntech (NYSE: STP), which has been forced into bankruptcy ending a months-long battle between the company's founder Shi Zhengrong and just about all the company's other stakeholders. In the meantime, I would be remiss not to mention another solar news tidbit that has panel maker Yingli (NYSE: YGE) forming a new strategic tie-up with GLC-Poly Energy (HKEx: 3800), in what could eventually become the first mega-merger in the struggling solar panel sector. Let's start with Suntech, which has been in the headlines nearly non-stop these...

Your Portfolio is Hooked on Fossil Fuels

Garvin Jabusch Oil addiction photo via BigStock You are drilling for oil and natural gas, and you probably don’t even know it.  What, you say you’ve never been near a drilling rig, and aren’t even sure what one looks like?  You’re still drilling, because companies you own are drilling. Many financial advisors and asset managers routinely assume that broadly diversified stock portfolios will have holdings in fossil fuels companies.  Even most stock mutual funds that identify themselves as ‘green’ funds contain natural gas and even oil holdings. This...

A 10-Minute Guide to Obama’s New Energy Policy

Jim Lane   Stopwatch photo via BigStock A major push from Obama on energy. From DOE: “Liquid fuels demand can be sufficiently reduced so that biomass can meet all liquid fuel needs.” What’s up? What is an Energy Security Trust, anyway? The Digest’s 10-Minute Guide tells all. In an address at the Argonne National Laboratories on Friday, President Obama said: “You see, after years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to take control of our energy future.  We produce more oil than we have in 15 years. ...

Bejing Should Oust Shi to Save Suntech

Doug Young New developments have come rapidly over the past week at Suntech (NYSE: STP), leaving the former solar superstar on the brink of collapse as its founder Shi Zhengrong blocks a potential government rescue. Shi’s exit is believed to be a main condition for the government bailout, and his refusal to leave could well result in the failure of a company that is otherwise an industry leader with strong potential. To prevent such a collapse, the government should take the unusual step of forcing Shi to go so that Suntech can begin a desperately needed reorganization....

Zoltek Rebuffs Offers, But Quinn Isn’t Going Away

Tom Konrad On March fifth, St. Louis, MO based carbon fiber manufacturer Zolek’s (NASD:ZOLT) shares jumped 14% to $10.52, having traded as high as $11.70 intraday when Quinpario Partners LLC  and allied investors disclosed a 10.13% stake in the company. Jeffry Quinn wants to help Zoltek penetrate new markets and increase its global presence. Quinpario is an investment firm  focused on the specialty chemicals and performance materials sectors, and also based in St. Louis.  The firm was founded in 2012 by Jeffry N. Quinn and several senior executives from Solutia Inc,...

Does SolarCity Run a Capital Efficient Operation?

by Debra Fiakas CFA The last post “SolarCity's Investor Disconnect” visited the oft repeated flogging of a company missing consensus estimates.  SolarCity (SCTY:  Nasdaq) reported strong sales growth in the December 2012 quarter, but the net loss was far deeper than expected  -  at least as suggested by published consensus estimates.  Investors immediately held the company accountable for the miss.  A closer look at the consensus reveals it is there is a great deal of disagreement on SolarCity’s fortunes. We can debate whether a company should be measured against a shakey consensus...

SolarCity’s Investor Disconnect

by Debra Fiakas CFA This week solar panel installer SolarCity (SCTY:  Nasdaq) made its first earnings announcement following its initial public offering in December 2012.  The event was much anticipated even if only to get a glimpse of the company’s most notable (or it’s that notorious?) investor Elan Musk.  Billionaire Musk was mostly recently in the public eye because of a spat with a New York Times reporter over one of Musk’s other major investments, Tesla Motors (TSLA:  Nasdaq).  The reporter was entrusted to road test one of Tesla’s electric sports cars...

Suntech Plunges as Reckoning Day Approaches

Doug Young I rarely write about the same company 3 times in a single week, but in this case the developments are coming so quickly at plunging solar panel pioneer Suntech Power (NYSE: STP) that an update to this fast developing story is necessary. Company watchers will know that Friday was the official deadline for Suntech to repay some $540 million in bonds that have just come due. The company has no cash to make that repayment, and earlier this week received a 2 month extension on that deadline from a majority of bondholders. (previous post) Meantime, Chinese...

Alt Energy Mutual Funds and ETFs Shine, But Risk Remains

By Harris Roen Mutual Funds (MFs) All of the alternative energy MFs were up handsomely in the past three months. The biggest gainer was Firsthand Alternative Energy (ALTEX), up 27.3% for the quarter, which also moved ahead in its ranking. Even the lowest three-month gainer, Brown Advisory Winslow Sustainability Fund (BAWAX), was up an impressive 9.2%. One-year returns were more variable, ranging from a gain of 18.0% for AWATX, to a loss of 11.7% for ALTEX. This has much to do with the solar holdings in these funds. For example, companies in ALTEX...