Suntech's Suddenly Worth Less

Hey, I didn't say worthless! But after this round of equity dilution, your shares of Suntech Power (NYSE: STP  ) are suddenly worth less than they were prior to the printing of at least 20 million new shares. If the offering's underwriters exercise their over-allotment option, Suntech will suddenly have nearly 15% more shares outstanding.

Yesterday, I made it quite clear how I feel about the recent tidal wave of equity offerings. I don't think I'm the only unhappy one. The new Suntech shares are priced at $12.50, whereas the stock changed hands in excess of $17 the day before the announcement. Of course, investors also had a rough earnings report to digest.

The main issue was that Suntech whiffed its revenue number, which had been guided to fall in the $340 million to $380 million range. The top line came in light at $316 million instead. Before the last earnings release, Suntech previewed its soft results. For some reason, the firm chose to wait until its full report to break the bad news this time.

I really don't see much else to be disappointed with in the report. While revenue dipped 24% sequentially, that's far better than the declines reported by Solarfun Power (Nasdaq: SOLF  ) or slumping SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWRA  ) (Nasdaq: SPWRB  ) . It's inferior to the result produced by First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR  ) , but we know that company's in a class of its own.

Margins also fattened up, as promised. The trend there is the same as Solarfun's seeing: raw material costs falling faster than average sales prices (ASPs). Suntech also pointed to "stringent cost controls and a reversal of provision for doubtful debts" in explaining how gross margins came in several percentage points higher than guidance, at nearly 18%.

For me, the sticking point with Suntech continues to be its debt level. With the firm forced to kowtow to its creditors, shareholders risk getting stuck with ongoing share count creep. You can ask an Evergreen Solar (Nasdaq: ESLR  ) owner what that feels like.

Suntech Power is a Rule Breakers recommendation. See if you take a shine to any of our Foolish newsletters with a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. Check out his CAPS profile or follow his articles using Twitter or RSS. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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