Energy Business

Are Solar Energy Yieldcos Worth More Than Investors Think?

Paul Ausick

As the price of crude oil has dropped more than 50% since last year at this time, the stock prices of producers like Exxon, Chevron and Apache have fallen by around 22% to more than 50%. Along with that drop, solar energy stocks have dropped by about 24% to as much as 34% in the same period. Are solar stocks merely tracking stocks for oil company stocks?

While that may appear to be the case, Bloomberg New Energy Finance suggested otherwise in the 2015 version of its Sustainable Energy in America Factbook. The Bloomberg analysts note that while the primary use for oil remains as a transportation fuel, the growth of renewable energy sources like solar power has come in the utility sector and that the drop in oil prices could boost investments in renewable energy.

Bloomberg reports that U.S. investment in clean energy rose from $48 billion in 2013 to $52 billion in 2014. Only China, which invested $89 billion in 2014, sunk more investment into clean energy last year. Globally, clean energy investment rose to $310 billion, the second highest total on record, behind only 2011’s $318 billion.

And what gets the credit for the renewed investment in clean energy in the United States? According to Bloomberg:

The key drivers behind these numbers were: the brief window of renewed policy support for wind, the acceleration of the rooftop solar business; and the emerging phenomenon of ‘yieldcos’ (publicly listed companies that own operating renewable energy assets).

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After peaking in early June, though, the yieldcos have tracked oil stocks down, with losses in a range of 11% to about 44%. But are investors missing something here? Here is a look at five yieldcos:

Abengoa Yield PLC (NASDAQ: ABY) was formed by Spain-based Abengoa in 2013 and has a market cap of $2.26 billion. The company pays a dividend yield of 6.8% and reported profits of $13.9 million ($0.17 a share) in its second quarter. Its struggling parent company is almost certainly the cause of the yieldco’s 44% share price drop, much of which has come in the past month or so as the parent has cut cash flow guidance and announced a rights issue valued at €650 million. Shares closed at $22.52 on Friday, and the consensus price target is $37.56, yielding an implied gain of nearly 67%.