Ascent Solar Rises on Strategic Shift to Consumer Devices

Nov. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Ascent Solar Technologies Inc., the U.S. solar manufacturer that’s shifting its focus to consumer electronics, rose the most in almost a month after announcing a portable charging device.

Ascent gained 5.9 percent to 90 cents at 12:53 p.m. in New York. Earlier it climbed 9.4 percent, the most intraday since Oct. 16. The company has gained 118 percent this year through Friday, compared with a 40 percent loss for the 17-member Bloomberg Global Large Solar Index.

Ascent, based in Thornton, Colorado, introduced the EnerPlex Kickr IV, a portable solar charger suitable for mobile phones and other consumer electronics, according to a statement today.

The device complements existing products aimed at retail shoppers, and continues a strategic shift that began in June when the company announced a charging case for Apple Inc. iPhones. The company’s thin-film solar products are well suited for consumer applications, said Robert Stone, an analyst at Cowen & Co. in Boston.

“There are a meaningful number of external battery cases that extend the lives of smartphones,” Stone said today in an interview. Ascent’s thin, light solar cells “may serve as a differentiator compared with several competitors.”

Ascent hasn’t reported a profitable quarter since it went public in 2006, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Chief Executive Officer Victor Lee said in September that the company will be profitable by the third quarter of 2013, with consumer products generating as much as 80 percent of revenue. The company is also pursuing aerospace, transportation and off-grid product applications.

Plunging Prices

Prices for standard, photovoltaic panels made from polysilicon have dropped 55 percent in the past year to 79 cents a watt. That’s made it hard for Ascent to compete for volume shipments to developers planning large-scale solar farms, Stone said.

“If you look at consumer products, you’re talking about much smaller devices, for which the price per watt is not a relevant figure,” he said.

“It’s a question of how much volume this business can generate,” Stone said. “They’re going in the right direction. We’ll have to wait and see how the next couple of quarters play out.”

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