ReneSola (NYSE:SOL) will release its first quarter financial results on May 16, 2013. This is the first Chinese ADR in the solar sector to report its Q1 2013 earnings. Two major U.S. solar companies -- SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ:SPWR) and First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) -- reported their earnings earlier. JA Solar Holdings (NASDAQ:JASO) and Canadian Solar Inc. (NASDAQ:CSIQ), two other Chinese ADRs, will release their earnings on May 20 and May 28, respectively.
For the fourth quarter of 2012, the company reported net revenue of $306.5 million, a gross profit of $10.30 million (gross margin 3.30%) and a net loss attributable to shareholders of $49.80 million (or -$0.58 per share). Revenue increased over 40% versus the third quarter of 2012. Management estimated that Q1 2013 revenue will be in the $260 - $270 million range.
The company's total shipments increased 70% last year and are expected to grow another 25% - 31.80% in 2013. Most importantly, the shipment for its higher margin solar module product has seen even bigger growth: up 153.93% in 2012 and will be up an additional 96.40% - 124.46% in 2013. See the table below:
Here's what to look for on the earnings call:
During its last quarter earnings call, the company guided that:
"The total solar wafer and module shipments to be in the range of 660 megawatts to 680 megawatts for the first quarter 2013 with solar module shipments expected to be in the range of 280 megawatts to 300 megawatts."
We will be very happy if the company can ship a total of 680 mw of its solar components with module shipments of 300 mw and wafer shipments of 380 mw.
Wafer Gross Margin
The company reported gross margin of +1.8% for its wafer product for the fourth quarter of 2012 with the wafer ASP of $0.24 per watt and the wafer cost of $0.2357 per watt.
Here is what the company guided about the wafer ASP and processing cost for the first quarter in the last quarter earnings call:
"We expect to lower wafer processing cost of our Virtus A++ manufacturing facility to $0.11 per watt by the end of first quarter.
With ASPs now rising slightly, we expect to improve our margin for our wafer business to become more profitable once polysilicon price stabilize."
The key number we are looking for is its wafer gross margin for the first quarter of 2013. We hope to see a slight improvement. If the company can cut wafer processing costs from $0.12 per watt to $0.115 per watt and maintain its wafer ASP, its gross margin will be increased to: ($0.24 - $0.2357 + $0.005)/$0.24 = +3.8%
Module Gross Margin
The company's module ASP dropped to $0.63 per watt and its module processing cost decreased to $0.60 per watt in the fourth quarter of 2012, a gross margin of approximately 4.76%. The following is what the company projected in its last earnings call about its module ASP and processing cost for the first quarter of 2013:
"In the first quarter of 2013, we expect our total solar module production cost to decrease to approximately $0.50 per watt - $0.55 per watt. (For the module ASP), Q1 will probably be about the same as Q4, maybe a little bit lower."
If the company can cut the module processing cost to $0.55 per watt and maintain its module ASP in the first quarter of 2013, its gross margin will have a huge improvement: from $0.03 per watt to $0.08 per watt (or from +4.76% to +12.69%).
Gross Profit and Net Profit
If the company can ship 300 mw modules and 380 mw wafers in the first quarter of 2013 as it guided in its latest earnings call, the gross profit should be $38.44 million. That is:
Gross Profit = 300 mw x $0.08 (module) + 380 mw x 3.80% (wafer) = $24 million + $14.44 million.
The company's operating expenses and interest payments for the first quarter of 2013 should be about the same as it had in the fourth quarter of 2012: $34 million and $13.20 million respectively, the net profit before income tax and other one-time items will be negative $8.76 million or -$0.10 per share.
ReneSola Ltd. is one of the best managed solar panel makers. Its business keeps growing and growing at a rapid pace even under a severe industry wide oversupply and overcapacity environment. I expect to see a much narrower net loss in the first quarter of 2013.
Disclosure: I am long SOL, CSIQ. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.