SolarCity Fires Up Solar Fever

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When solar power installer and provider SolarCity Corp. (NASDAQ: SCTY) reported first-quarter earnings Wednesday evening, the company’s stock jumped 7% in after-hours trading, even after forecasting a larger net loss in the current quarter than it suffered in the first quarter. Investors are willing to trade SolarCity’s growth for profits, and the company is glittering on Thursday because of it.

SolarCity raised its installation guidance from 475 to 525 megawatts in 2014 to a new range of 500 to 550 megawatts and set initial guidance for 2015 at 900 to 1,000 megawatts. The company deployed 82 megawatts in the first quarter and has another 136 megawatts booked. The customer base grew to more than 110,000, and SolarCity still projects that it will reach 1 million customers by mid-2018.

Based on its long-term contracts (power-purchase agreements, or PPAs) the company estimates its nominal contract payments remaining at $2.5 billion, nearly double the amount at the end of the first quarter a year ago and up more than 20% sequentially.

All that is good news and caused shares to soar nearly 18% at midday on Thursday, at $56.00 in a 52-week range of $25.00 to $88.35. Investors are choosing to ignore the first-quarter earnings per share loss of $0.82 and a forecast second-quarter loss of $0.90 to $1.00 a share. There is apparently no substitute for growth.

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