Solar Stocks: J.P. Morgan Shuffles Ratings

by: Eric Savitz

J.P. Morgan analyst Christopher Blansett Thursday morning shuffled his ratings on some solar stocks, advising investors to “shift to a more defensive stance.” For the second half, he expects “an uncertain landscape for solar energy companies with both positive and negative forces in play that are likely to cause solar energy stock prices performance to be choppy and relatively range bound.” Here’s a rundown on his revised ratings:

  • Energy Conversion Devices (NASDAQ:ENER): Launches with Overweight rating. “We think the company is currently trading like a value stock while participating in a high-growth industry.” He writes ENER has been one of the most aggressive in cutting capital spending and conserving cash, “causing us to believe the stock has limited downside risk.”
  • Evergreen Solar (ESLR): Upgraded to Overweight from Underweight, “as there appear to be few expectations built into this stock.” He asserts that the stock trades at a significant discount to peer module makers due to its historical poor product development performance, but that the company’s new Devens facility is operating smoothly, allowing ESLR to participate in the next demand upturn and perform at least in line with peer module makers.
  • Ascent Solar (NASDAQ:ASTI): Upgraded to Neutral from Underweight, “as the company looks to be ahead of schedule in terms of product development. A new focus on military and aerospace applications is “very positive as it allows Ascent to sell high-margin products with little competition,” although he adds that “risk stil remains as the company has yet to ramp into full production.”
  • First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR): Downgraded To Neutral, from Overweight. “We the current stock price does nto reflect a potential negative margin reset or the possibility Germany could make a larger than sceduled subsidy reduction in 2010,” he writes. The analyst all worries that crystalline silicon modile makers who are benefiting from low poly prices will continue to price aggressively, even at their own cash costs.
  • SunPower (SPWRA): Upgraded to Neutral from Underweight. “SunPower will benefit from lower poly costs and a rebound in the U.S. market, but is spending excessive cap ex in our view and is fighting a declining module ASP trend.”

In Thursday’s trading:

  • ENER is up $1.12, or 7.78%, to $15.44.
  • ESLR is up 29 cents, or 13.5%, to $2.44.
  • ASTI is up 15 cents, or 1.9%, to $8.05.
  • FSLR is up 50 cents, or 0.3%, to $155.79.
  • SPWRA is down 41 cents, or 1.5%, to $26.65.

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