Fear seemed to be the theme on the market for solar last week. First Solar
The bottom line is that the industry continues to post big losses across the board, something that can't continue forever. Below, I highlight three more money-losing companies that reported earnings last week.
Losses spill over to inverters
The results from the latest solar entrant into the public markets were mixed at best. Enphase
The problem is that revenue, gross margin, and shipments fell from the fourth quarter and the company reported a $10.2 million net loss. At this rate, there will need to be a big improvement in margins, which I don't see happening, or a jump in sales before we see a profit.
Canadian Solar barely keeps its head above water
Rough conditions in the solar market are taking their toll on even the best manufacturers, as Canadian Solar
Shipments fell from 436 MW in the fourth quarter to 343 MW this quarter and revenue fell 31% to $325.8 million. Gross margin, the indicator I am watching closely at all manufacturers, slid a point to 7.7% and loss per share was $0.49.
The results look bad, but they're actually among the best in the solar industry, showing where manufacturers as a whole are right now. One trend I will point to as a strength is the company's ability to expand in the Americas as European demand falls. A year ago, 75.6% of modules were sold in Europe with the remainder split between the Americas and Asia. This quarter the Americas led the way with 45.1% of shipments and revenue grew quarter over quarter.
It's going to be a long slog forward, but I think Canadian Solar has a good chance to be one of the companies left standing when the solar shakeout is over.
The other end of the spectrum
Like I said, compared to other manufacturers, Canadian Solar's results are good, and ReneSola
Despite the improvement, gross margin was still negative 3.8%, operating margin was negative 17.9%, and net loss was $40.2 million. As if losing this much money wasn't enough, management is going forward with module and polysilicon expansion plans, so it will be seen if the company can successfully pull off this expansion without sinking into more debt.
Management hopes to post positive gross margins in the second quarter, but that's about the only positive thing I can say about ReneSola right now. The company is sitting on more than $800 million of debt, can't make a profit on what it sells, and will continue to face fierce competition from stronger rivals. I don't see a reason to buy the stock right now.
Signs of the apocalypse
I'm getting tired of reporting on losses in the solar industry, but that's the world we live in right now. I'm afraid we'll see more of the same until more companies fail, supply is taken off the market, and markets like the U.S., China, and India become more mature.
I've made my bets in solar, but it's a dangerous world out there. Invest cautiously and wisely.
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Fool contributor Travis Hoium owns shares of SunPower in both a personal and a managed account. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.