For a couple of years, I’ve repeatedly emphasized that solar equities are great stocks to buy. One of the reasons for my bullishness about solar stocks was the rapid adoption of solar energy by most of the largest countries in the world, including the U.S., India, Japan and China.
And in 2019, solar names, including my favorite companies in the space, SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR), JinkoSolar (NYSE:JKS) and Daqo New Energy (NASDAQ:DQ), have indeed been great stocks to buy, as they have risen tremendously this year. But driven, I believe, largely by the inaccurate statements of a biased insider, solar stocks have slumped recently. I think that this decline represents a great buying opportunity, and that solar names remain great stocks to buy at this point.
Solar Stocks Have Risen From the Ashes
For the lion’s share of 2018, most solar stocks were held back by China’s decision to withhold subsidies while it reconsidered its solar policies. But solar was rapidly becoming cheaper than other forms of energy, including in many areas of China, leading me to remain extremely upbeat on solar stocks. California’s decision to require all new homes to utilize solar energy, along with rapidly rising renewable mandates by other American states were also very positive for solar stocks.
By the beginning of 2019, it became clear that China was not giving up on solar energy and that it would resume providing meaningful subsidies to solar panel makers. Meanwhile, the increased financial competitiveness of solar, along with the other positive catalysts I described above, caused the results of many solar companies to dramatically improve.
Consequently, many solar stocks have surged dramatically in 2019. For example, SPWR stock, JKS stock and DQ stock — three names I’ve strongly recommended in the past — have jumped 150%, 98% and 106%, respectively, in 2019.
Insider Bearishness Has Put a Damper on Solar Stocks
But in recent weeks, most solar stocks have decreased meaningfully (although many have risen recently after the attacks on Saudi Arabia caused oil prices to spike dramatically). For example, JKS stock is down 13% from its recent high, while SPWR stock has fallen nearly 20% and DQ stock is down almost 5%.
The declines came almost immediately after Eric Luo, the CEO of Chinese solar company GCL System told Reuters that he thought only 20-25 gigawatts of solar energy would be installed in China annually through 2025. Last year, 41 gigawatts of solar were installed in the country. In the first half of 2019, 11.4 gigawatts were installed.
However, in May, Beijing said that it had decided to spend $435 million on solar subsidies. The government noted that applications for the subsidies were due on July 1. On July 11, Reuters reported that China had decided to subsidize nearly 23 gigawatts of solar for the rest of this year. Adding that 23 GW figure to the 11.4 GW that had been reportedly installed, in the first half of the year adds up to over 34 GW. That’s well over Luo’s 20-25 GW estimate.
Moreover, Beijing stated that “about 50 GW of solar power projects” will be installed this year, more than double the midpoint of Luo’s estimate. And, as will be noted below, both JKS and DQ are extremely upbeat about the outlook for China’s solar sector. Finally, multiple news outlets are reporting that, in a large part of the country, solar power is now cheaper than electricity generated by other sources. As a result, in coming years, there will be a meaningful financial incentive to build more solar projects even if government subsidies end.
Luo, who was also apparently bearish on solar at the beginning of the year before solar stocks exploded higher, appears to have a bias against the solar panel sector. That’s because GCL-Poly, the highly indebted parent company of Luo’s GCL System, is looking to sell a 51% stake in another subsidiary, GCL New Energy. The latter subsidiary owns power plants in China.
Solar power plant owners would likely benefit from low solar panel demand, which would result in low solar panel prices. Lower panel prices would enable the plant owners to expand their facilities more cheaply. As a result, GCL-Poly could demand a higher price for the stake in its unit if the outlook for solar panel demand is low.
Additionally, as Luo himself told Reuters in January, “GCL’s vertically integrated business model cushioned it from the downturn in prices as its solar farms benefited from cheaper panels.” Consequently, it’s possible that GCL would like to weaken DQ stock and JKS stock, with whom it competes, even as it remains unscathed by its bearish statements.
In any event, as shown below, the recent quarterly results and statements of SunPower, JinkoSolar and Daqo show that their respective stocks are actually very well-positioned going forward.
Solar Stocks to Buy: SunPower (SPWR)
On July 1, SunPower increased its full-year EBIDTA guidance, excluding some items, to $120 million-$140 million from its previous level of $90 million-$110 million. The company’s earnings-per-share came in at 75 cents, versus a loss per share of 63 cents in the previous quarter and a huge loss per share of $3.17 in the second quarter of 2018.
It deployed 622 megawatts, up from 455 NW in the previous quarter and 385 in the same period a year earlier. Revenue from its North American residential business jumped more than 30% versus Q1, and its revenue from businesses deploying solar solutions surged more than 50% versus Q1. SPWR provided guidance for revenue of $1.9 billion-$2.1 billion this year, and it expects its 2019 net loss to come in between $20 million and $10 million.
The market cap of SPWR stock is $1.84 billion. As a result, if the company meets its guidance, SPWR will be closing in on profitability, while SPWR stock will have a price-revenue ratio of less than 1.
Additionally, the company said that it expects to benefit from growing demand for its storage and services products, while demand for its home-based solar panels in overseas markets is already quickly growing
In Q2, JinkoSolar’s top line surged 14% year-over-year to over $1 billion, and its gross margin came in at 16.5%, up from just 12% during the same period a year earlier. It shipped nearly 3.4 gigawatts of solar modules, 21% higher than its year-ago total. Its prior guidance was 3.2 gigawatts-3.3 gigawatts. JKS, however, did reaffirm its previous 2019 shipment guidance of 14-15 gigawatts.
Importantly, however, JKS expects China to install 40 gigawatts this year, well above Kuo’s forecast. The company’s gross margins tend to be higher on the modules it sells in China, so its financial results and JKS stock should benefit from strong demand from China in the second half of this year.
Moreover, JKS said it expects solar to become as cheap as fossil fuels in many regions of the world this year, and it is benefiting from strong demand in many emerging nations, as well as high sales in the U.S. The forward price-earnings ratio of JKS stock is less than 8, while its market cap is less than $1 billion, making its valuation extremely attractive. Interestingly, as of June 30, Bank of America, Citi, Morgan Stanley and UBS all owned sizable amounts of JKS stock, meaning that they all consider JKS a good stock to buy. I believe that bodes very well for the outlook of JKS stock.
Daqo New Energy (DQ)
Daqo’s non-GAAP EPS beat analysts’ average outlook by 16 cents in Q2, although its top line came in slightly below the average estimate. Moreover, its polysilicon sales fell meaningfully in Q2 versus Q1, and many of its other financial metrics dropped significantly last quarter.
However, DQ explained that, last quarter, it focused on increasing its production capacity and conducting its annual maintenance. In Q3, DQ expects its total production capacity to jump to 9,200-9,500 megatons of polysilicon, up from just 7,151 MT in Q2. Additionally, DQ predicts that its production cost will fall to $7.50 per KG versus $8.12 per KG in Q2.
Similar to JinkoSolar, Daqo predicted that 40 gigawatts to 45 gigawatts of new solar projects will be installed in China in 2019. During the current quarter, demand for polysilicon in China will exceed supply, causing polysilicon prices to increase, DQ believes.
That trend will certainly be positive for DQ’s results and DQ stock. Trading at a forward P/E ratio of less than 6, DQ stock has a market cap of less than $700 million. Among its key holders as of June 30 were Morgan Stanley, Citi, State Street and Bank of America, showing that they all view DQ as a good stock to buy. As of June 30, Goldman Sachs had a small, $6 million stake in the company.
As of this writing, Larry Ramer owned shares of JKS stock, DQ stock and SPWR stock.