Now that you’ve blown your next two years’ bonuses on subprime mortgages and homebuilder stocks, you need a recovery strategy.
Look No Further – Solar Power
It’s irresistible. You can recoup your losses and fight global warming at the same time. Solar power companies are both friendly to the environment and hugely profitable. No gambling on an unknown startup.
First Solar Inc., a Phoenix-based company that makes modules used in solar power panels, reported its third-quarter profit was up 10 times to $46 million, or 58 cents a share, as sales more than tripled to $159 million.
Demand for solar power equipment is growing at an annual rate of 40 percent. Google Inc., the Internet search engine company, just announced it would spend hundreds of millions of dollars to develop alternative forms of energy such as solar power. It plans to reduce the electricity costs of its power-hungry computers and sell cheaper energy to others.
While solar power equipment, like any new technology, is relatively expensive, subsidies from national and state governments make it affordable for business and homeowner customers and profitable for the manufacturers.
So profitable that First Solar, which went public a year ago, now has a total stock market value of almost $17 billion, exceeding that of either General Motors Corp. or Ford Motor Co. If you don’t think that’s a big deal, consider that the solar power company’s value isn’t that far behind the $23 billion number for NYSE Euronext, which owns the world’s biggest stock exchange and has been a hot stock much of this year.
Global Spread of Solar Power
You can play solar power all over the world. Q-Cells AG in Thalheim, Germany, reported third-quarter profit of 34 million euros ($50 million) and this month forecast 2009 sales of 1.7 billion euros, compared with 540 million euros in 2006. Q-Cells, which makes the solar power cells that make the modules that make the panels, is even more inviting if you think the euro will continue to rise against the dollar.
There’s a China angle too. Suntech Power Holdings Co. in Jaingsu province, makes solar power cells and had a third-quarter profit of $53 million. Its shares have more than doubled this year in New York Stock Exchange trading.
Demand for solar power equipment may be just beginning to grow. Increased sales will help manufacturers bring down their unit costs. The price of refined silicon, a key ingredient for solar power products, should decline as the capacity for making the material grows.
Solar Power A Bit Pricey?
Solar power stocks aren’t for the fainthearted, though that won’t bother you. Skeptics will advise against buying First Solar or, say, SunPower Corp., a Sunnyvale, Calif., maker of solar power panels that stands to get as much as $190 million in financing from Morgan Stanley, even though they are both in the black.
First Solar trades at 288 times earnings in the latest 12 months, SunPower at 275 times, while the price-to-earnings ratio on Google, everybody’s favorite speculation, is 56.
Don’t listen. After all, based on estimated profit for 2007, First Solar’s P/E is a mere 170, SunPower’s 98.
Oh sure, there’s also a chance you might bet on the wrong company. Some upstart may develop superior technology. Or solar power may never be profitable without government handouts. Ethanol as an alternative energy has had a rocky road.
Forget the warnings. You can be partners with Al Gore and the kids at Google—and you need a winner. Leap for the sun.