Let’s give credit where credit is due. SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ:SCTY) has actually been pretty remarkable on a few fronts, such as growth and installation volume. SolarCity has gone from being a nobody to being the largest installer of solar panels for residential and commercial clients. However, SolarCity hasn’t made a dime doing this, and SCTY stock has killed investors for years as a result.
When SolarCity reports third-quarter earnings Wednesday after the bell, nothing will change on this front.
And frankly, no one will actually care.
Despite leaking money like a sieve, the focus at SolarCity will continue to be the growth in installations, its debt … and what it all means for its pending merger with Elon Musk’s other child, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA).
Another Big Loss for SCTY
SolarCity’s operating history as a money-making machine has never really materialized. Last quarter, SCTY lost $2.32 per share — up from the year-ago quarter’s $1.61 per share. Estimates for the third quarter stand at a $2.55-per-share loss … off from a $2.41 loss for Q3 2015.
The losses are getting bigger, which expains why SolarCity is looking at reinventing itself as a complete solar firm, expanding into offering storage options and designing new products for residential customers.
It also explains why SolarCity needs to hook up with Tesla — it’s having a hard time going it alone.
That will be evident when SolarCity reports Q3 financials. Analysts see SCTY revenues improving by 50% — a 13-percentage-point slowdown in revenue growth year-over-year, thanks to bookins that tumbled during the first half of the year.
Thanks to the end of the lucrative net metering system in Nevada and spillover effects on other states, SCTY recently revised down its total number of gigawatts installed for the quarter and total year. The end of net metering in the state actually caused SCTY — as well as rivals Sunrun Inc (NASDAQ:RUN) and Vivint Solar Inc (NYSE:VSLR) — to end operations there.
With such a lucrative state now out from beneath of SolarCity’s umbrella, lower revenues are sure to follow.
Tesla Is All That Matters
SolarCity stock investors likely will shrug off the results. They once looked past the lack of profits by thinking about greater installed watts. Now they’re distracting themselves with the proposed merger with Tesla.
In fact, poor earnings will likely underscore the need to fall under Tesla’s wing. The combination of the firms will create a one-stop shop of green technologies. You get TSLA’s battery technology, engineering capabilities and retail outlets with SCTY’s solar industry knowhow, huge customer base and — perhaps more importantly — its huge financing/banking partners.
However, beneath the cheerleading remains SolarCity’s still-high debts and cash burn.
SCTY’s business model requires oodles of cash to function. It has to buy the panels and install them, then reap the benefits down the line. Now, SolarCity has expanded into newer solar loans, but it still finances the bulk of its deals through its old means. SCTY constantly needs to raise money to do the deals, and in the past, it has relied on some crazy securitization typesto get the funds it needs.
I’ve likened SolarCity to a black box financial stock rather than a solar one.
Debt costs are going up — SolarCity is now paying 7.4% for cash — and the rate of cash burn is climbing, too. So the TSLA deal increasingly looks like a bailout, not a buyout. Tesla shareholders really shouldn’t be overlooking this. If SolarCity’s latest quarter shows a further spike in debt or a hike in that cash burn, I’d be seriously considering voting against the deal on Nov. 17.
Bottom Line for SCTY Stock
SolarCity shares are off 60% year-to-date. What’s funny is, you’d have to think the going would be even worse if not for the proposed Tesla deal … even though SCTY shares are off more than 20% since the company accepted TSLA’s bid.
SolarCity is an innovative company, but a poor investment that can’t deliver on the profit front or keep up its sky-high growth rate. We’ll be reminded of this again on Wednesday.
But it won’t matter. If you own SCTY stock, all that matters is that the acquisition by Tesla goes through.
On the flip side, I don’t think I’d want SolarCity gumming up my sweet EV company.
As of this writing, Aaron Levitt did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.