Last quarter, I had some choice words about SunPower's
All in all, first-quarter results looked strong. Both the components and the systems segments beat revenue guidance, and SunPower hiked sales and earnings guidance for the full year. Thanks to thinner wafers and bleeding-edge cell efficiencies, the company's polysilicon intensity, in terms of grams per manufactured watt, continued its decline.
SunPower's usage of 6.3 grams/watt is light for a traditional photovoltaic player. To my knowledge, it's surpassed only by Evergreen Solar's
Polysilicon supply also exceeded expectations, helping the company crank out 20% more megawatts' worth of modules sequentially. The company's recently installed manufacturing lines primarily drove volume gains, but ample raw material supply made the new lines' ramp-up really rock n' roll.
Despite the solid silicon supply, poly costs didn't dip as anticipated, hurting gross margins in the components business. SunPower reassured everyone that it still sees polysilicon prices pulling back over the course of 2008, taming those costs to the tune of 10%.
The company's shares opened moderately lower on these results, perhaps on word of majority owner Cypress Semiconductor's
I don't know why folks would freak out about this -- a similar thing happened last quarter, when margins strengthened sequentially while revenue eased. This is exactly what will happen in the third quarter, when more components are internally allocated to SunPower's systems.
The fact that an analyst on the call had to clarify that this allocation shift was lowering third-quarter revenue indicates that misunderstanding these future flattish revenues is probably pervasive. SunPower made a mistake by briefly looking ahead to its third quarter, which looks limp in isolation. As the company itself noted, project bookings are viewed on a two- to three-quarter basis.
I can only wish that this tantrum by Mr. Market will encourage SunPower to abandon quarterly guidance in favor of half-yearly forecasts.