Monday, May 3, 2010

Solar: Auriga's Mark Bachman gets a Scoop-"SunPower offering branded low-efficiency multi-crystalline modules" (SPWRA; SPWRB)

Making this comment from last week more understandable:
"Selling shares of SunPower is the derivative trade on the First Solar acquisition,"

The stock is trading up 37 cents at $16.97. The last I saw Bachman reiterated his "Sell" and $15.00 target.

Here's the latest from PV-tech:
In what looks like a strategy to better compete with low-cost Asia-based solar module manufacturers after losing significant market share in some of its core markets, SunPower has secretly sourced from third-party suppliers a SunPower branded multi-crystalline module ‘Serengeti’ to be used in commercial applications.

The scoop was revealed by Financial analyst, Mark Bachman from investment firm Auriga USA. According to Bachman, who discovered the product on SunPower’s website but not linked, believes SunPower’s competitive argument that the company’s high-efficiency mono-crystalline modules can compete effectively with lower-priced Asian modules is now in question. SunPower has not officially launched the product.

Serengeti line product outline shows the module is a low cost alternative to its own high-priced, high efficiency modules. The Serengeti modules utilize 60 standard multi-crystalline cells that are configured into either a 220W or 228W version (14% conversion efficiency) with an aluminium frame, indicating its commercial targeted market compared to aesthetically pleasing black anodized framing....MORE
And from Greentech:

SunPower’s Newest PV Product is Low Efficiency
In a surprise move, SunPower, the global PV efficiency leader, introduces a low-efficiency product. Does this tarnish the brand? Does this mean that high-efficiency is not a winning strategy?
Normally, when SunPower introduces a new product, they put their PR machine in overdrive and journalists get assaulted by press releases, briefings and conference calls. So it's a little surprising that SunPower has quietly unveiled a new product.

Yes, the leader in high efficiency solar panels, the world record holder for commercial-scale solar panel efficiency has released it's newest product.

Drum roll please....

A polycrystalline-based panel, the Serengeti Series, with a 13.9 percent conversion efficiency. Rimshot.

A new product line, essentially a new direction for the company, somewhat counter to its technology-centric branding message -- and this news was not announced in recent press briefings or press conferences with the governor?

The panels appear to be intended for commercial applications. SunPower has a relationship with Q-Cells -- so the cells might be sourced from that German vendor. And SunPower has a relationship with contract manufacturer Jabil and a recently announced CM arrangement with Flextronics.

According to Auriga, an investment firm, "SunPower is using third-party suppliers for the cells and is using outsourced contract manufacturing to assemble the modules; the modules are branded by SunPower. We believe this is a measured reaction to the loss of market share due to increased competition from both Chinese and Japanese module manufacturers. In addition, we believe the use of multi-crystalline modules weakens SunPower’s competitive argument that the company’s high-efficiency mono-crystalline modules can compete effectively versus the lower-priced Asian modules. We continue to rate the shares of SPWRA with a Sell rating and find the stock is meaningfully over-valued given the use of non-GAAP results." and "We believe this product offering will cause further margin compression on SunPower’s margin structure given that we find no premium in offering a standardized module."

In what would appear as a diversionary tactic to the conspiracy-minded, SunPower just announced their 19.5 percent efficient high output E19 series of solar panels.

The usually responsive SunPower PR organization has not yet responded to inquiries.