Canadian Solar Earnings Should Lift Solar Energy Stocks Today

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Canadian Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: CSIQ) reported third-quarter 2013 results before markets opened Wednesday morning. The Chinese solar panel maker posted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.56 on revenue of $490.9 million. In the same period a year ago, Canadian Solar reported an EPS loss of $0.29 on revenue of $380.4 million. Third-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $0.36 and $480.1 million in revenue.

Canadian Solar is one of the solar players that has recovered fastest from the solar debacle of a few years ago. The stock is up more than 700% so far in 2013 and about 950% higher over the past 12 months. Over the past five years, the the share price is up about 235%.

Looking at some of the other solar stocks, the next-best performer is Trina Solar Ltd. (NYSE: TSL), which is up about 185% over five years, up 340% in the past 12 months and up about 270% in 2013 so far. Trina Solar shares closed at $16.17 on Tuesday, in a 52-week range of $2.04 to $17.84.

Over the past five years, JinkoSolar Holding Co. Ltd. (NYSE: JKS) is up about 150%, up nearly 630% in the past 12 months and 345% higher in 2013 to date. JinkoSolar shares closed at $27.62, in a 52-week range of $3.18 to $29.39.

These three solar PV companies have survived the overcapacity problems that sunk Suntech Power Holdings and have nearly sunk LDK Solar Co. Ltd. (NYSE: LDK). A combination of government support, adding installation businesses and lowering their costs have sorted the winners from the losers in the Chinese solar business.

At Canadian Solar, third-quarter revenues are nearly 30% higher sequentially and 50% higher than in the same period a year ago. The company attributes that to its high-margin solutions (installation) business and lower manufacturing costs. Selling prices have continued to decline, but the company’s gross margin increased from 2.2% in the third quarter of 2012 to 20.4% this year. According to the earnings announcement:

The Company’s gross margin for the third quarter of 2013 exceeded its original guidance, which was in the range of 10% to 12%, primarily due to the successful execution of its total solutions business plan, including the completion and sale of solar power plants to TransCanada and BlackRock, as well as higher gross margin from the Company’s pure module business.

Canadian Solar shares were up about 4% in premarket trading, at $29.10 in a 52-week range of $1.95 to $29.90. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $28.70 before the results were announced. At the end of December, the consensus estimate for Canadian Solar stock was $5.30.

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