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  • get_imaginary get_imaginary May 15, 2011 2:14 PM Flag

    Should I sell?

    Obviously I can't answer that for you but can maybe give some ideas.

    No one knows exactly what Total wants to see happen. Some have even speculated that Total would prefer to ruin SunPower as a way of eliminating competition to oil. I don't believe that, btw, but it does present a worst-case scenario that's within the realm of possibility.

    There are also many ways for Total to benefit from this purchase that don't require SunPower to do well. For example, Total gains a "green" PR benefit that may save them many times their purchase price someday when they have to settle a big lawsuit for environmental damage. Similarly, they may get green tax breaks over a period of years or even decades that add up to far more than their purchase price. Finally, oil companies routinely hedge their bets and Total may view this purchase as nothing more than a hedge against a major shift in world energy markets. Bottom line here is that even if you ascribe 100% pure interests to Total, the best thing for Total will not necessarily be the best thing for SunPower.

    That said, I do think the most likely scenario is the simple one -- namely that Total does see value here and picked the best of breed solar company because they want to participate in that success. Even with this perspective, however, it's worth keeping in mind that an individual investor's timeframe for success may not be the same as the timeframe for a major energy company. Think of Total's other ventures. Exploration for and development of oil reserves cost billions in investment and the returns may not arrive for decades. I wouldn't want to wait decades for a non-dividend paying stock to start showing a return. Most likely, SunPower will show returns sooner than that, but it's worthwhile to keep in mind that the path to those returns may be bumpy and possibly slow. Of course, it *might* skyrocket within a year. But my point is that I would never want to conclude that based just on Total's tender offer and credit facility.


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