While the markets were reeling, then healing, from the surprise victory of Donald Trump, SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ:SCTY) quietly reported its latest earnings for the third quarter. As expected, the numbers weren’t good. As expected, it didn’t matter to anyone holding SCTY stock.
The name of the game for SolarCity, as I said recently, is completing its bailout … er, merger … with Elon Musk’s other renewable energy baby, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA). And since SCTY reported losses and lower bookings, the need for the merger became even more pronounced.
This is potentially the last quarter that SCTY stock will trade on a public exchange. And the company is going out crying for help from Musk and Tesla shareholders.
SolarCity Still Is Losing Money
Times have been tough at SolarCity, and the firm has been shifting its model to rein in costs. It’s working, kind of. SCTY posted a loss for the past three months, but that loss was better than expected. SolarCity bled $2.27 per share — 2 cents better than what the analysts were calling for.
Revenue growth of 76% to $201 million also cleared Wall Street’s bar.
But SolarCity still isn’t profitable. And while a slightly better-than-expected loss might make investors feel a little warmer and fuzzier, realize that this is the fifth consecutive quarter of losses for the firm. Five straight quarters of losing money. No wonder why SCTY stock has plunged by more than 60% since the start of the year.
As if continued losses weren’t enough, SolarCity has continued to burn through cash. Yes, SCTY technically reported an improvement of cash on hand in Q3, but in reality, $100 million of that came from a bond issue launched just before earnings.
SolarCity actually continued to eat cash as its model of funding panel sales via loans and leases requires plenty of upfront capex. Net debt — including recourse and convertible bonds — now sits at $1.371 billion, or roughly double what it was a year ago.
Part of the problem is that costs have ticked upward. While costs were down sequentially, they still were up year-over-year.
Then we have the pesky panel installations to consider.
SCTY installed 187 megawatts worth of panels for the quarter. That beat its own estimates and guidance figures of 170 MW. The rub is that 170 MW number was a reduction from its original guidance figures.
And guess what SolarCity did again this quarter? It reduced guidance. Thanks to lower residential demand, SCTY lowered its full-year installation forecast to less than 900 megawatts. That was down from over 1.1 gigawatts at the start of 2016.
In the end, the numbers weren’t great. SolarCity not only doesn’t generate profits, but it’s lacking in the growth department, too.
SCTY Needs TSLA
After another quarter of disappointment, high debt, increasing cash burn and zero profits, the pending merger with Tesla looks like a must-win situation.
The basic premise behind the deal was aggressive cross-selling opportunities. SCTY would get access to TSLA’s battery storage and engineering, while Tesla would gain access to SolarCity’s customer base and its vast buyers of solar bonds and capital providers. Tesla would be able to use the cash flows from SolarCity’s owned panels and leases to help finance its own expansion efforts.
But the real reason for the buyout is reducing SCTY’s costs and boosting profitability once it is tucked inside Tesla.
That’s the hope, anyway.
Vote Yes If You Want to Save SCTY Stock Holders
SolarCity’s unimpressive numbers simply reaffirm the known — that the company needs some help. A “yes” vote is a no-brainer for anyone who holds SCTY stock.
If you hold TSLA stock? Well, the answer might not be so simple. Given SolarCity’s current profitability problems, the burden might be too much to bear.
As of this writing, Aaron Levitt did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.