Solar Industry Takes Another Blow (WFR, FSLR, SPWR, STP, YGE)

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One piece of the solar industry that has taken a bigger hit to prices than the panel makers, it’s the polysilicon wafer makers. Case in point is MEMC Electronic Materials Inc. (NYSE: WFR) which posted an EPS loss of -$0.40 on revenue of $519.2 million. The consensus estimate had called for an EPS loss of -$0.26.

Solar panel makers like First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR), SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWR), Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. (NYSE: STP), and Yingli Green Energy Holdings Co. Ltd. (NYSE: YGE) have watched panel prices erode about -50% in the last year. Polysilicon prices have dropped -70% and companies like MEMC simply can’t reduce costs fast enough to keep up with collapsing demand and a race to the bottom on polysilicon prices.

MEMC’s adjusted gross margins for the quarter were down to 10% from 11.6% in the previous quarter and full year 2011 margin of 18%. Perhaps the worst news of all for the company is that its SunEdison division which designs and installs solar PV systems installed new projects totalling 49 megawatts in the first quarter, down -55% sequentially and -11% year-over-year.

The company also forecast somewhat weak revenue growth for the second quarter and a revenue drop for the full fiscal year. The company said its sales volume for the full year would be more than 400 megawatts and that second quarter volume would be 130-170 megawatts. Taking a midpoint of 150 megawatts and first quarter sales of just 47 megawatts, that estimate indicates expected growth in the second half of the year. MEMC better hope so.

Shares of MEMC are down -24% today, at $2.47 after posting a new 52-week low of $2.46 earlier. The prior 52-week range was $3.20-$11.31.

Paul Ausick