Monthly Archives: August 2013

Maxwell’s 54% Q2 Growth: An Outlier, Not A Trend

Tom Konrad CFA When I wrote about Maxwell Technologies’(NASD:MXWL) earnings restatement earlier this month, I predicted that third quarter (Q3) earnings would be much worse than recent trends were leading investors to believe.  I expected the stock would decline as analysts revised their expectations to reflect Maxwell’s weak short term prospects, allowing me to exit my short position, which I still hold. Sure enough, analysts have reduced their earnings expectations.  Analyst consensus earnings expectations for Q3 have reversed from 13 cents to a 10 cent loss, while expectations for 2013 have plunged from 46 cents to 6 cents....

Tesla Hits Chinese Speed Bump; BYD Rounds A Corner

Doug Young A couple of interesting news bits are coming from the new energy vehicle sector, including a potential roadblock into the China market for up-and-coming US player Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) and new results from struggling domestic electric car maker BYD (HKEx: 1211; Shenzhen: 002594; OTC:BYDDF) that look encouraging but not too exciting. The main common theme in this latest news is that new energy vehicle makers continue to hold out hopes for the China market, banking on strong government policies to boost the market, even though progress has been slow so far. Let’s start with a...

First Solar Won the Race; The Environment Lost

Joseph McCabe, PE In 2011, I wrote about the CdTe Horse Race in which the three US companies making cadmium telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) modules, First Solar (FSLR), Abound Solar and General Electric (GE Solar, stock ticker GE) jostled for position.  Abound and GE were challenging the reigning champion First Solar to build the largest PV manufacturing facility in the world. The official results of that race are in, and First Solar has beaten the competition by many lengths. Within about a year of each other both Abound and GE Solar...

Microinverters Make a Move on Multi-MW Solar Power Installations

Tildy Bayar A microinverter from iEnergy Photovoltaic (PV) microinverters, traditionally used in smaller rooftop solar installations, are being used in a 2.3-MW commercial rooftop installation in Ontario, Canada, supplier Enphase Energy (ENPH) has announced. The installation is the largest commercial rooftop project under the province’s feed-in tariff (FiT). Analysis firm IHS Research has called the announcement a milestone in the microinverter segment’s progress towards establishing itself outside its biggest market, the U.S., and outside the residential solar segment.  According to IHS’s analysis, PV microinverter shipments are forecast to exceed...

Lime Energy’s Long Dark Year Of The Soul

Tom Konrad The last year has been hard on Lime Energy (NASD:LIME Disclosure: I own this stock.)  The company discovered problems with its internal reporting over a year ago, and the effort to restate the books and establish proper controls took much longer than anyone expected, in large part because the internal investigation uncovered additional problems as it proceeded. While the company was in danger of delisting, creditors were reluctant to provide funding, and this led the company to sell its two most capital intensive businesses: its asset development business, and its ESCO business.  The ESCO business required backing...

Alternative Energy Mutual Funds Post Stellar Performance, ETFs Variable

By Harris Roen Mutual Funds Alternative energy MFs have had stellar returns in the past three and 12 months, all showing gains in the double digits. ETFs have also done well on average, but returns are much more variable, as detailed below.   Returns remain excellent for alternative energy MFs overall, with annual returns ranging from 54.5% to 15.8%. The average MF is up 31.3% for the year, and not a single fund posted a loss in the past 12 months. Three-month and one-month returns also look goodeven the funds that did not make...

SunEdison’s Impressive Customers Not Yet Impressing Investors

by Debra Fiakas CFA A series of acquisitions have put SunEdison, Inc. (SUNE:  Nasdaq) in the business of solar energy systems.  Until recently called MEMC Electronics Materials, the company had been a provider of silicon wafers to semiconductor producers and fabricators.  In 2009 and 2010, MEMC acquired SunEdison and Solaicx, respectively.   Besides the foundation for a new name, the SunEdison deal gave the company a line of photovoltaic energy solutions to sell to solar system developers and major end users.  Solaicx acquisition gave the company access to a proprietary continuous crystal growth manufacturing technology which yields high-efficiency...

Ameresco’s CEO Expects Return To Growth In Q3

Tom Konrad CFA With earnings announcements coming fast and thick over the last two weeks, it has been all I can do to keep up, let alone go into detail about the companies I usually follow, as I did with Maxwell Technologies (NASD:MXWL) earlier this week. (Note: I am currently long Ameresco and Short Maxwell.) Rather than remain completely silent, I’m going to attempt to focus on the main take-aways I’ve gleaned from the filings and earnings calls, starting with Ameresco’s (NASD:AMRC) potentially confusing earnings. Another “Miss” Ameresco again missed First Call analysts’ average earnings estimates for the...

Suntech Shares May Be Worthless; Canadian Solar Sells More

Doug Young The latest news from Canadian Solar (Nasdaq: CSIQ) and Suntech (NYSE: STP) is casting a shadow over a nascent recovery for the embattled solar sector, as each company struggles to fix its broken finances pummeled by a two-year downturn. Canadian  Solar has announced a plan to raise up to $50 million through a stock sale, while domestic media are reporting that bidding for bankrupt Suntech is moving ahead quickly, indicating the end may be near as an independent company for this former solar high-flyer. All this shows that investors shouldn’t get too bullish on solar companies...

Maxwell’s Earnings Restatement: Some Good, Some Bad, No Ugly

Tom Konrad CFA When Maxwell Technologies (NASD:MXWL) announced problems with its revenue accounting on March 7h, I took a look at the company’s reported Accounts Receivable  (where early revenue recognition usually shows up) and concluded that management had underestimated the scope of the accounting problems. Convinced that there was more to come, I not only sold the stock, but took a short position. On August 1st, Maxwell filed its restated annual reports for 2012 (including restatements of 2011), as well as  statements for the first two quarters of 2013. The Bad News:...

KiOR’s Columbus II: A New World of Profits?

Jim Lane One of biofuels’ hottest companies aims to accelerate path to break-even; is a shortfall in gallons produced in Q2 meaningful? In Texas, KiOR (KIOR) reported a Q2 loss of $38.5M, compared to a Q1 loss of $31.3M. on revenues of $239K, up from $71K in Q1. Net loss for the second quarter of 2012 totaled $23.0 million, or $0.22 per share. The biggest news coming out of the quarterly results is that the company is looking at an additional 500 dry ton/day facility, dubbed “Columbus II”, as an intermediate step between now and building its...

Yingli or Trina May Bid For Suntech

Doug Young August 9th was “Solar Friday”, as we were bombarded with a flurry of news that showing the sector is rebounding and could also see its first major merger. In the former category, earnings updates from Yingli (NYSE: YGE) and Trina (NYSE: TSL) are showing steady improvement for the embattled panel-making sector, while a quarterly report from Canadian Solar (Nasdaq: CSIQ) is showing the sudden improvements may already be starting to plateau. In the latter category, Chinese media are reporting that both Yingli and Trina are also showing interest in investing in Suntech (NYSE: STP), the former...

Watch This Nuclear Player Boil

by Debra Fiakas CFA The last post on Chicago Bridge and Iron (CBI: NYSE) noted the entrance of CBI into the nuclear field with the acquisition of The Shaw Group, which has an exclusive relationship with Toshiba Corporation related to the Toshiba Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR).  More evolutionary than revolutionary the ABWR is supposed to be superior other designs in its light water reactor class.  ABWR produces power by superheating water to the boiling point. The resulting steam is then used to drive a turbine attached to a generator.  Other light water reactors also heat...

Solazyme Shares Soar On Sasol Deal

Jim Lane Bioenergy’s #1 company surges on the exchanges after big Sasol, AkzoNobel partnership announcements. In California, Solazyme (SZYM) announced a Q2 loss of $25.8M, compared to a Q2 2012 loss of $19.2M, on revenues of $11.2M, down from $13.2M for Q2 2012, as government funded revenues declined as expected. Excluding the government sector, sales jumped 28% year on year despite the lack of the big capacity that Moema and Clinton will represent when completed. Product gross margins were a very healthy 70%, in line with guidance. Solazyme shares were up 12.95 percent today at market close....

First Solar Buys GE’s Tech: A Defensive Move?

James Montgomery Flexing its muscles yet again, thin-film solar PV leader First Solar (FSLR) has quietly acquired GE's (GE) similar solar intellectual property portfolio, but questions linger about whether and when the company will see the benefits. The deal includes both a specific module purchase commitment plus a longer-term commitment with agreed-upon pricing "over an extended period of years," according to First Solar CEO Jim Hughes during the company's 2Q13 earnings results. GE, meanwhile, will supply inverters for First Solar's global deployments, technology acquired through French firm Converteam, and it will seek to sell solar PV...

Chinese Solar Sector Overhaul Goes Local

Doug Young The latest signs coming from bankrupt solar panel maker Suntech (NYSE: STP) indicate a Beijing-led overhaul for the struggling sector may not be coming after all, and that local governments and other stakeholders may instead become the main rescue agents for these companies. Reports last year had hinted that Beijing was working on a broad plan to retrench the sector, which was suffering from massive overcapacity. But since then most of the problems at the weakest major player LDK (NYSE: LDK), have been handled by the local government and other stakeholders in its home province of...