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Solar Company Shares Up On Earnings, Outlooks

Fri, 02/17/2012 - 3:00pm
The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of solar power companies rose Friday after two of them reported encouraging results in their earnings and a third company said it had regulatory approval to continue building a new solar power project in California.

Shares of solar panel makers have been battered over the last year by a glut of supplies in world markets that has driven down prices. Companies like SunPower Corp. have seen their profits drop as they spend the same amount of money to build solar power equipment that is selling for far less than it used to. U.S. companies even filed a trade complaint against Chinese competitors, alleging that those companies were dumping supplies on the market to depress prices.

This week, things are looking a little sunnier in the solar business.

On Thursday SunPower Corp., based in San Jose, Calif., said its fourth-quarter profit was much higher than analysts expected, thanks to strong demand that boosted revenue and shipments.

The company lost money during the quarter, but after excluding one-time costs like restructuring charges and stock-based compensation, it earned 16 cents per share. Analysts expected 5 cents a share, according to FactSet.

On Friday Chinese solar panel maker Suntech Power Holdings Co. raised its guidance on full-year shipments last year, suggesting demand wasn't as bad as some analysts feared.

Suntech Power said its preliminary figures show shipments totaled about 2.09 gigawatts. Its previous estimate was gigawatts. The company estimated during 2011 revenue was between $3.13 billion and $3.15 billion. Analysts expected $3.06 billion, according to FactSet.

And First Solar Inc. said Friday that it had an approval to continue a major solar power project in California. Alan Bernheimer, a spokesman for the Tempe, Ariz., solar power developer, said First Solar had resolved all permitting issues that held up the Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One project. Bernheimer said he could not elaborate.

Earlier this month the company said that permit problems for the project might delay crucial loans from the Department of Energy.

Collins Stewart LLC analyst Dan Ries said in a note to clients that permitting agencies in Los Angeles County told him that everything was in order.

"Most county officials were unaware that there remained an outstanding permitting issue with regard to (Antelope Valley Solar Ranch). The project remained under construction so they believed it was in compliance with permits," Ries said.

First Solar shares jumped $2.88, or 7.3 percent, to $42.59 in midday trading.

Solar panel makers were up even more. Suntech Power rose 37 cents, or 11 percent, to $3.74. SunPower Corp. gained $1.41, or 18.9 percent, at $8.89.

JinkoSolar rose 61 cents, or 7.5 percent, to $8.72. Trina Solar Ltd. Rose 66 cents, or 7.3 percent, to $9.78.

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