SunPower sees intense competition in solar this year

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Published: February 16, 2017 10:55:06 AM

Customer concerns about potential changes in U.S. tax policy were slowing some sales, said US solar company SunPower Corp.

Chief executive, Tom Werner, said on a conference call with analysts that the entire solar market was in significant transition. (Reuters)Chief executive, Tom Werner, said on a conference call with analysts that the entire solar market was in significant transition. (Reuters)

U.S. solar company SunPower Corp warned on Wednesday that pricing would be extremely competitive for the rest of year and said customer concerns about potential changes in U.S. tax policy were slowing some sales. SunPower makes solar panels and builds everything from residential rooftops installations to large, utility-scale solar power systems. Its chief executive, Tom Werner, said on a conference call with analysts that the entire solar market was “in significant transition.”

A global glut of panels has pushed prices down substantially over the last year, harming profit margins for manufacturers like SunPower and sometimes driving prices on contracts down to uneconomic levels. “The intensity of competition will continue,” Werner said.

The company, which is majority owned by France’s Total SA , reported a wider quarterly net loss for the fourth quarter in part due to a $175.8 million charge related to restructuring expenses. Most solar companies have recently launched cost-cutting measures and SunPower said in December it would lay off 25 percent of its workforce and close one plant.

Some U.S. homeowners have been holding off on installing solar to see how U.S. President Donald Trump’s pledge to reform the U.S. tax code plays out. The federal government currently offers a 30 percent tax credit for solar systems. Business customers are also concerned, said Werner, who added that SunPower does not expect changes to federal tax credits for solar.

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Shares of SunPower were down nearly 7 percent at $6.75 in after-market trading. The stock has lost 66 percent of its value in the last year. The company’s net loss attributable to shareholders widened to $275.1 million, or $1.99 per share, in the fourth quarter ended Jan. 1, from $40.5 million, or 29 cents per share, a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, the company lost 64 cents per share. The company’s revenue jumped 40.5 percent to $1.02 billion. Analysts on average had estimated a loss of 45 cents per share on revenue of $1.06 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

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