SunPower Loss Swells Eightfold as Spending Grows and Sales Slide

  • Solar company holding projects on its balance sheet longer
  • Operating expenses increased 28% and revenue slips 13%

SunPower Corp.’s losses swelled more than eightfold in the first quarter as the second-biggest U.S. solar manufacturer’s revenue declined and it increased investment in new power plants.

The net loss was $85.4 million, or 62 cents a share, from $9.6 million, or 7 cents, a year earlier, San Jose, California-based SunPower said in a statement Thursday. Excluding some items, SunPower’s loss of 30 cents a share exceeded the 21-cent average loss of 14 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales fell to $385 million from $441 million.

SunPower is about a year into a strategic shift, after it announced plans in February 2015 to jointly form with First Solar Inc. a holding company for renewable-energy power plants. The strategy means the companies hold projects on their balance sheets longer until they can be sold to the holding company, 8point3 Energy Partners LP, which completed an initial public offering in June.

“We’re investing in assets to drop down,” Chief Executive Officer Tom Werner said in an interview. “It’s just a matter of timing when we can recognize the revenue.”

SunPower’s operating expenses increased 28 percent to $130.6 million, in part because the company is building power plants that it will keep on its balance sheet until they can be sold to 8point3 or a third party. These include its 102-megawatt Henrietta project in California and a 100-megawatt plant it’s developing for NV Energy Inc., which are both expected to be completed in the second half.

The company raised its revenue forecast for 2016 to $2.8 billion to $3 billion, up from a February estimate of $2.2 billion to $2.4 billion. It affirmed its guidance for net income of break-even to as much as $50 million. SunPower’s revenue in 2015 was $1.58 billion, the lowest since 2009.

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