Monday, January 28, 2008

Time to update the Watchlist: Renesola

Renesola IPO on the Way

First off, let me say, I wish the folks at Renesola well, and wish them luck in getting their products out there and generating power.

However, I think that in the end, Renesola is not in a strong position. The issue is in the scale.

Renesola does not stand to become independent of the Global Polysilicon Market through their own production. This year they expect to produce 200 to 300 metric tons, which is equivalent to about 20-30 MW of wafers. Well, they're planning on 585MW this year, of which 5% will be based on their own Poly production. Next year (and presumedly afterwords), they expect to produce 150 MW worth of Poly to support future wafer production. This may be enough to take some of the pain of high Silicon prices away in the short term, but it doesn't appear to be scaled to provide much benefit after say, 2012, when everybody and their neighbor has spare Silicon production capacity. At that point, the benefits of owning and maintaining a small-scale Silicon production facility decrease significantly, and possibly become a liability (lack of focus, continued requirements to compete on production costs with other market players).

According to the article "In the first nine months of 2007, sales nearly tripled over the prior year to $153 million. Net income rose from $15 million to $25.5 million." Renesola says that they are in competition with LDK. The article goes so far as to say that the competition is "fierce." Well, LDK's profit for the 3rd quarter of 2007 was almost twice that of Renesola over the first nine months of the year, and LDK's IPO was $400M compared to SOL's $127M. Really, the timing of this IPO is unfortunate for Renesola, but time is of the essence, and they clearly needed the money right now, even though it cut deeply into their incoming cash.

As usual, I wouldn't be selling this Solar company short, because there's no telling what kind of price explosions we could see here, but I will say that this IPO does nothing at this point to convince me that LDK isn't still the best bet in the industry.

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