SunPower results shine; 2014 outlook disappoints

Reuters

By Nichola Groom

LOS ANGELES, Oct 30 (Reuters) - SunPower Corp onWednesday reported a higher-than-expected profit, raised its2013 earnings outlook and announced investment in a new factory,a move it said signaled the global solar market has turnedaround.

Wall Street initially cheered the results, sending SunPowershares up in after-market trading. The stock later reversedcourse to trade down 3 percent when the company's chiefexecutive gave a 2014 earnings per share forecast that fellshort of expectations due to expenses for the new plant and ahigher share count.

After several years of enduring a global oversupply of solarpanels, rapidly falling product prices and elusive profits,SunPower is once again making money and expanding production.

The company, which is majority owned by French energy giantTotal SA, is building several major solar power plantsin California. It is benefitting from strong residential demandin the United States and gaining business in the fast-growingJapanese market. The once-stalled European market is improving.

"We see a very positive market across all geographies,"Chief Executive Tom Werner said in an interview.

SunPower plans to build a 350 megawatt solar cell factory inthe Philippines that will come online in 2015. In the meantime,it will run its factories at full capacity next year.

"It gives you some sense of our belief in the future,"Werner said. "We are very optimistic about the next few years."

SunPower raised its 2013 earnings outlook to a range of$1.30 per share to $1.50 per share, well above its prior outlookof $1 to $1.30 per share.

The revenue view was tightened to a range of $2.52 billionto $2.57 billion from a previous range of $2.5 billion to $2.6billion.

On a conference call with analysts, Werner said earnings pershare for 2014 would be about $1, below the $1.23 per shareanalysts are expecting, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

He said the company's results would "increase meaningfully"in 2015 thanks in part to the new production capacity.

"The stock isn't going to be dead money throughout 2014,"said Baird analyst Ben Kallo, who has an "outperform" rating onSunPower shares. "There is a lot of good business coming in...You will have some short term focused investors selling on someof those comments. Longer term investors will remain committed."

SunPower's solar panels are the most efficient in theindustry at converting sunlight into electricity, allowing thecompany to command a price premium for them in the market. Theefficiency of the company's panels has served SunPower well inJapan, where solar system prices are high and customers favorhighly efficient panels.

Net income for the third quarter was $108.4 million, or 73cents per share, compared with a net loss of $48.5 million, or41 cents per share, a year ago.

Excluding items, the company earned 44 cents per share. Onthat basis, analysts had been expecting earnings of 25 cents ashare, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 14 percent to $657.1 million. Analysts expectedrevenue of $589.4 million.

SunPower's stock is up 466 percent so far this year.

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