SunPower Needs a New Spain

Yesterday, SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWR  ) reported characteristically strong numbers. The firm achieved triple-digit revenue growth and its strongest margins, on a GAAP basis, since the end of 2006. For the most part, investors could have cared less. Their attention was elsewhere, as SunPower quashed any lingering skepticism about rumored revisions in Spanish solar subsidies.

On its quarterly conference call, the San Jose-based solar company acknowledged that it's planning for essentially a complete drop-off in Spanish systems sales in the back half of the year. In addition, the company anticipates "much slower revenue" next year in Spain as well. These are significant statements for a firm that derived nearly half of its systems revenue from Spain in 2007.

On a sunnier note, SunPower argued that Spain is shifting to a rooftop market. That could potentially power the company locally, as long as government support for large-scale installations remains uncertain. Still, I have a hard time deriving comfort from this downshift, given the state of the Spanish economy.

You've heard of the BRIC countries by now, I imagine. Well, there's a new acronym in the financial press -- PIGS -- reflecting the constituents' shaky foundations. Guess which country the S represents? Other companies facing potential Spain pain include Yingli Green Energy (NYSE: YGE  ) , Suntech Power (NYSE: STP  ) , and Canadian Solar (Nasdaq: CSIQ  ) .

Let's look on the bright side here. Commentary on SunPower's conference call pointed to pent-up demand in other countries. With Spain sagging, there still ought to be more than enough global demand to pick up the slack.

SunPower specifically tipped Italy, France, and Japan as potential successors to Spain's throne as the hottest market around. Italy has to contend with its own PIGS issues, but France and Japan do look promising. The latter country, for example, has been talking about re-upping its solar support of late. Given its strong global coverage, SunPower's business shouldn't wither, even if Spain remains under the weather.

SunPower is rated a middling three stars among Motley Fool CAPS players. Think the firm's future is brighter than that? Speak your mind, Fool.

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Suntech Power is a Rule Breakers pick. Shine a light on any of our Foolish newsletter fare free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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