Sector Snap: Solar energy companies

January 17, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of solar energy products companies were mixed Thursday as a Jefferies analyst said he believes the worst may be behind the sector, as far as energy policies are concerned.

Analyst Scott Reynolds said in a client note that he sees growing support for national level solar programs in Europe and Asia. He noted said that diesel is still used to generate a significant portion of the world's electricity, because outside of the U.S. natural gas is expensive for utilities. This makes solar an attractive option for many regions, he said.

"Solar is now competitive in many electricity markets and we believe a demand inflection will be subject to improving demand for electricity, favorable policy and capital availability, and fewer new subsidy programs," Reynolds said. "Solar is seeing increasing support in Asia and the Middle East is taking a fresh look as they look to solve their growing energy consumption issues."

The analyst boosted First Solar Inc.'s price target to $30 from $21 and maintained a "Hold" rating. While Reynolds views the company as one that will do well long term, he doesn't see any near-term catalysts. First Solar fell 9 cents to $30.63 in afternoon trading.

He raised his price target on SunPower Corp. shares from $5.00 to $8.00, saying overcapacity will remain a near-term problem for most solar companies, though brighter days may lie ahead. Sunpower shares rose 7 cents to $7.91.

He also boosted GT Advanced Technologies Inc. to "Hold" from "Underperform," saying the downside was already priced into the stock. Shares of GT Advanced rose 13 cents, or 4.1 percent, to $3.27.

Other solar companies — including MEMC Electronic Materials Inc., Enphase Energy Inc. and LDK Solar Co. Ltd. — were lower.