Photographer: Chip Chipman/Bloomberg
Selling solar leases to raise cash, prepare for U.S. tariffs
Oppenheimer downgrades shares amid increasing uncertainty
SunPower Corp. is willing to sell about $1.4 billion in long-term solar leases to raise $200 million now.
The 45,000 contracts stretch out for as long as two decades, generating monthly payments from customers that altogether installed 400 megawatts of rooftop panels. SunPower took a non-cash charge of $474 million in the fourth quarter as a result, the San Jose, California-based company said in a statement late Wednesday. There may be additional charges in the current quarter.
SunPower’s planning to sell the leases and unload its stake in a renewables unit, 8Point3 Energy Partners LP, as it grapples with new tariffs that President Donald Trump has slapped on imports of solar equipment to the U.S. The company said the lease sale will specifically help it pay off a $300 million convertible bond due in June and fund growth this year.
“We’re trying to simplify our company and our financial reporting,” Chief Executive Officer Tom Werner said in an interview. “We asked ourselves: ‘Should we be holding lease assets on our balance sheet?’’ We think the answer is no.”
SunPower projected first-quarter revenue of $280 million to $330 million, below analysts’ estimates. Colin Rusch, a New York-based analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., downgraded SunPower to perform from outperform, citing the lower projections.
Uncertainty over the company’s cost structure and possible restructuring warrants “stepping to the sidelines,” Rusch said in a research note Thursday. The San Jose, California-based solar manufacturer fell as much as 10 percent to $6.72 on Thursday.
— With assistance by Brian Eckhouse