Energy Business

Another Likely Survivor of the Chinese Solar Shakeout: JA Solar

Solar rooftop installation
Source: Thinkstock
JA Solar Holdings Co. Ltd. (NASDAQ: JASO) reported fourth-quarter and full year 2012 results before markets opened this morning.

The China-based solar panel maker reported a net loss per American Depositary Share (ADS) of $2.65 on revenues of $268.1 million for the quarter. In the same period a year ago, the security and monitoring firm reported a loss per ADS of $1.53 on revenue of $263.2 million. Fourth-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for a loss per ADS of $1.53 and $248.46 million in revenue.

One ADS represents five ordinary shares of JA Solar stock.

For the full year, JA Solar posted a loss of $7.10 per ADS (or $1.42 per share) on revenues of $1.1 billion. The consensus estimate called for a loss of $4.45 per ADS on revenues of $1.09 billion.

The company’s CEO said:

In the fourth quarter, shipments exceeded the top end of our prior guidance, largely due to a better-than-expected performance across key growth markets. … In the fourth quarter, shipments to Japan, where we have established ourselves as one of the top international suppliers, and China grew significantly. Shipments to the U.S. declined in the quarter due to seasonality, although we expect to see increasing demand there in 2013. … Ultimately, we believe JA Solar’s value proposition, which combines high-quality, high-efficiency products with prudent financial management, will see us emerge from this difficult environment as one of the industry’s long-term winners.

Once again, JA Solar sold more product but the company paid the price in margin. Gross margin for the quarter was a negative 4.6%, compared with a positive 5.9% margin in the third quarter. Third quarter gross margin, excluding one-time items, would have been a negative 3.7%, so in reality, the situation worsened for JA Solar in the quarter.

The company projects first quarter sales of 410 to 430 megawatts of cells and modules, sharply lower than the 500 megawatts sold in the fourth quarter. For the full year, shipments are forecast at 1,700 to 1,900 megawatts, compared with about 1,700 megawatts this year. The company said nothing about prices or revenues, so there is little reason to believe that JA Solar’s results will improve much in 2013.

JA Solar has a debt payment of about $120 million due in mid-May, and the company claims that there is no default risk because it already has the funds. Last week’s bankruptcy filing by Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. (NYSE: STP) after it failed to make a $541 million debt repayment has given investors even more worries about the Chinese solar sector. JA Solar and ReneSolar Ltd. (NYSE: SOL), which received a $51 million loan from the China Development Bank last week, appear to be two potential survivors in the Chinese solar shakeout.

Shares are down about 3.8% in premarket trading this morning, at $4.00 in a 52-week range of $2.91 to $9.10. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $4.70 before today’s results were announced.