Canadian Solar's (CSIQ) CEO Shawn Qu on Q2 2014 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Aug.13.14 | About: Canadian Solar (CSIQ)

Canadian Solar Inc. (NASDAQ:CSIQ)

Q2 2014 Earnings Conference Call

August 13, 2014 8:00 AM ET

Executives

Mary Ma – Investor Relations

Shawn Qu – President and Chief Executive Officer

Michael G. Potter – Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Philip Shen – Roth Capital Partners

Paul Coster – JPMorgan

Frank He – Goldman Sachs

Colin Rusch – Northland Capital Markets

Nitin Kumar – Nomura Securities

Aditya Satghare – FBR Capital Markets

Josh Baribeau – Canaccord Genuity

Pierre Maccagno – Dougherty & Company

Pranab Sarmah – AM Capital

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to Canadian Solar Second Quarter 2014 Earnings Conference Call. My name is Steve, and I will be your operator for today. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded for replay purposes.

I would now like to turn the call over to Ms. Mary Maa, Canadian Solar’s IR Assistant. Please go ahead.

Mary Ma

Thank you, Operator. And welcome everyone to Canadian Solar’s second quarter 2014 earnings conference call. Joining us today on the call are Dr. Shawn Qu, our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; and Mr. Michael G. Potter, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer and Mr. Ed Job, Director of Investor Relations.

Before we begin, may I remind our listeners that in today's call, management's prepared remarks will contain forward-looking statements, which are subject to risks and uncertainties, and management may make additional forward-looking statements in response to your questions. Therefore, the company claims the protection of the Safe Harbor for forward-looking statements that is contained in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

Actual results may differ from management's current expectations and therefore, we refer you to a more detailed discussion of the risks and uncertainties in the company's annual report on Form 20-F filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In addition, any projections as to the company's future performance represents management's estimates as of today, August 13, 2014. Canadian Solar assumes no obligation to update these projections in the future unless otherwise required by applicable law.

At this time, I would like to turn the call over to Dr. Shawn Qu. Shawn, Please go ahead.

Shawn Qu

Thank you, Mary, and thank you all for joining us on the call today. We are very pleased to report that in the second quarter we have delivered record profitability, with net income reaching approximately US$56 million or $0.95 per share we have continued to make measurable progress in the development of our utility scale project pipeline in Canada, the US, Japan and China. We delivered record module shipments as we benefitted from strong demand for our products in key geographies, and we have positioned the company to deliver ever strong results in the back half of the year and beyond.

Our second quarter results underscore the continued successful execution of our strategy to expand our high-margin total solutions business, which contributed around one-third of our total revenue in Q2, compared to around 27% in Q1. At the same time we have also continued to focus our module business on profitable growth leveraging our brand, reliability, strong balance sheet, to cherry-pick profitable sales rather than compete for volume at unattractive price or at the expense of product quality.

In the second quarter of 2014, our revenue and module shipments exceeded our guidance. We shipped approximately 646 megawatts and we achieved gross margin of 19%, which again exceeded our own guidance. From a geographic standpoint, we saw strong demand from Japan, North America and Europe. In Japan, we have maintained our position as the leading foreign brand, with the shipments of approximately 185 megawatts in the quarter, all under Canadian Solar brand.

We are also pleased with the pickup in sales to European markets, with shipments of 113 megawatts in the quarter. The US remains an important marketplace and although we are very disappointed with the US Department of Commerce’s countervailing and antidumping preliminary determinations to impose duties of certain solar product import from China and Taiwan.

We believe we are able to leverage our global scale and footprint to serve our US customers profitably. In the meantime, Canadian Solar is in no way dependent on the US market will continuing to build our other key markets, where demand remains robust. Let me now provide highlights of the progress we made in our total solutions business.

In total, our global utility-scale project including owned and joint-venture projects as well as EPC services contracts, now stands at approximately 1.3-gigawatt pipeline. In Q2, we completed the sale of one utility-scale solar power plant in Canada valued at over C$60 million to an affiliate of Concord Green Energy. In addition, we entered into an EPC agreement with Kingston Solar, a partnership formed by Samsung for the construction of 140-megawatt DC utility-scale solar energy plant in Kingston, Ontario.

This EPC agreement is expected to generate revenue of over C$300 million for Canadian Solar. This gives us considerable forward visibility for Ontario, Canada business. Our backlog of late-stage solar project and EPC service contracts in Canada now totals around 535 megawatt, this represent an estimated revenue opportunity of over C$1.8 billion once the projects are built and connected to the grid.

Our efforts in Japan continue to gather momentum in Q2, we expanded our pipeline of late-stage solar project through 405 megawatt DC and we remain confident to accumulate 600 megawatt pipeline in Japan by the end of 2014. We also started construction of our first utility-scale power plant totaling 1.2 megawatt. We expect to connect to this pilot project to the grid in September. Meanwhile, we have started civil work on a 24 megawatt project and are finalizing the plants to start construction on additional sixth solar power plant totaling 11 megawatt in Japan in the third quarter of 2014.

In US, our pipeline of solar project at the end of Q2 totaled 111 megawatt, we continue to evaluate opportunities to expand our pipeline in the US through sales development and joint venture and hope to announce positive results in the quarters ahead.

In China, we plan to start construction on three projects totaling 80 megawatt in Q3 according to the current permitting schedule and we continue to pursue more project opportunities. Meanwhile, we are working on a few major partnerships, which will help us to significantly expand our business footprint in China.

Clearly, we have been successful over the past several quarters in differentiating our business model, by focusing on total solutions. This is a big reason why Canadian Solar is now one of the industry’s best-positioned companies. The total solution business requires a unique set of capabilities that are not easy to replicate, including specialized skills in project development, permitting, engineering, construction and financing.

Our experience and track record provides us with the right platform to power our profitable growth and deliver lasting value to our shareholders. Finally, we continue to evaluate the possibility of launching a YieldCo, and we expect to be in a position to make a decision by early 2015. Now let me comment on our guidance for Q3, and the full year 2014.

We expect Q3 shipments will be in the range of approximately 720 megawatt to 750 megawatt. Revenues for the third quarter of 2014 is expected to be in a range of $760 million to $810 million. The company’s Canadian and US project revenue recognition is subject to risk and uncertainties due to permitting and construction schedule as well as testing and customer acceptance delays. Actual results in Q3 as well as for the full year may differ from our current expectations due to risks that are discussed in detail in our filings with the SEC.

Now let me turn the call over to our CFO Michael Potter, for a more detailed review of our financials. Michael, please go ahead.

Michael G. Potter

Thank you, Shawn. Net revenue for the second quarter of 2014 was $623.8 million up 33.8% sequentially and up 64% compared to the year ago period.

Gross profit in Q2 was $118.2 million, compared to $68.6 million in Q1 and $48.7 million in the comparable period last year. Gross margin in Q2 was 19% compared to 14.7% in Q1 and 12.8% in the second quarter of 2013. This was at the high end of our original guidance of 17% to 19% primarily driven by strong module sales and the sale of our Val Caron project in Ontario to a unit of Concord Green Energy.

Operating expenses were $50.5 million in Q2, compared to $42 million in Q1 and $36.4 million in the second quarter of 2013. Interest expense in Q2 was $12.8 million compared to $12 million in Q1 and $9.9 million in the comparable period last year. The sequential increase in interest expense was primarily due to interest on the convertible senior notes issued in the first quarter of 2014, which accrued for a full quarter and higher bank borrowing.

Interest income was $3.6 million in Q2, compared to $2.8 million in Q1 and $3.2 million in the year ago period. In Q2, we recorded a loss on change in the fair value of derivatives of $3.2 million compared to a loss of $7.4 million in Q1 and a gain of $1.8 million in Q2 of last year.

Net foreign exchange gain in Q2 was $7.6 million compared to a net foreign exchange gain of $0.9 million in Q1 and a foreign exchange loss of $20.5 million in Q2 of last year.

Income tax expense in the second quarter of 2014 was $8.3 million, compared to income tax expense of $7.3 million in Q1 and income tax benefit of $5.1 million in the Q2 of last year.

Net income attributable to Canadian Solar shareholders for Q2 2014 was $55.8 million, or $0.95 per diluted share, compared to net income of $3.8 million, or $0.07 per diluted share, in Q1, and net loss of $12.6 million, or $0.29 per diluted share, in Q2 of last year. Moving on to the balance sheet, in Q2 cash and cash equivalents was $341.3 million at the end of Q2 compared to $364.2 million at the end of Q1. The restricted cash balance was $447 million at the end of Q2, compared to $416.8 million at the end of Q1.

Our accounts receivable balance, net of allowance for doubtful accounts, was $382.8 million at the end of Q2, up from $343.7 million at the end of Q1. Inventories increased to $441.7 million at the end of Q2, compared to $376.4 million at the end of Q1.

Short-term borrowings at the end of Q2 totaled $876.3 million, compared to $801.4 million at the end of Q1. Long-term debt at the end of Q2 was $150.1 million, compared to $163.5 million at the end of Q1.

Senior convertible notes outstanding totaled $150 million. Short-term borrowings and long-term debt directly related to utility-scale solar power project totaled $250.6 million at the end of Q2.

We invested in working capital in the first part of the year so that we would be able to realize our plans for the second half of the year. We anticipate that we will be able to draw down this working capital for the rest of the year and recover some of the cash we invested.

Our numbers for the quarter were quite strong, with the highest net income we ever recorded for a quarter. However, this quarter’s result came from initiatives we started several years ago. We invested in the Japanese and US markets and in our total solutions business, and now the investments are returning strongly for us.

We are not satisfied with our success today however. We want to do better in the future. The company is becoming evermore global, as a lower cost and more-affordable solar energy systems have steadily increase global demand. Behind the scenes, we have been working on our currency pairings to try and reduce the impact of foreign exchange on results. While it is impossible to completely eliminate it, we have managed the better match intercompany transactions to both increase the amount of natural hedging and to move exposure to markets where we have more hedging capability.

We also have been exploring different financing solutions to allow us to bridge projects from construction to possible securitization. We hope to reduce the need to sell equity in our projects before they reach commercial operation. That should increase the total return to the company.

We also have been exploring several potential path to securitization of our pipeline. And as Shawn said, we plan on discussing this in detail by early 2015. Although operating expenses as a percent of revenue have been falling, ensuring our ability to leverage our existing infrastructure, we also been investing in the staffing and skills needed to continue our success. Our business is far more complicated today than just building and selling modules, and we are trying to make sure we have the right people to help us realize our future goals.

In summary, Q2 was a strong quarter for us, our total solutions business delivered solid results, while at the same time we continued to experience strong, profitable demand for our modules from all of our key target markets. We are confident entering Q3 that we remain well positioned to deliver record results in the second half of 2014.

With that I would like to now open the call to your questions. Operator?

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen your question-and-answer session will now begin. (Operator Instructions) And your first question comes from the line of Philip Shen from Roth Capital Partners. Please go ahead.

Philip Shen – Roth Capital Partners

Hey, guys. Thanks for taking my questions and congrats on a nice quarter. I wanted to explore 2014. What is your latest view on either your shipment or revenue outlook? And why did you not provide 2014 guidance?

Michael G. Potter

We didn’t change 2014 guidance, so we didn’t think it was necessary to repeat the same guidance we gave befor.

Philip Shen – Roth Capital Partners

Okay, great. So it is still in place, and – that helps. Thank you. As for my follow-up, can you talk to us about what your US strategy is? Can you continue to ship into the US from the Ontario facility? Where are you sourcing your sales from? And what are your overall thoughts on the US market?

Shawn Qu

Hi, Philip this is Shawn speaking. We still receive good order flows after the July 25, US DOC’s preliminary ruling on the antidumping duty. At this moment we are using our own solar cells and modules. We are also basically using Chinese solar cells and using our Chinese factories to make modules for US our customers. Now with this strategy, the margin does shrink comparing with the margin before the antidumping preliminary ruling. However, we still maintain profitable sales; and also our US customers accept the price in the shipment. In the long term, we will be exploring over the manufacturing plant.

Philip Shen – Roth Capital Partners

Great. Thank you, Shawn, and thank you, Michael. I’ll jump back in queue.

Shawn Qu

Thank you.

Operator

And your next question from the line of Paul Coster from JPMorgan. Please go ahead.

Paul Coster – JPMorgan

Thanks for taking my questions. I’ve got three quick ones. First one, Shawn, perhaps you can give us some sense of what percentage of revenues will originate in total solutions in the second half?

Shawn Qu

Now, Paul, as I said in my speech, around one-third of the revenue around 33% of the revenue, in Q2 comes from the total solution. And for the rest of the year we will be having increasing percentages of revenue from total solutions. We still expect it to be approximately 50% for the year.

Paul Coster – JPMorgan

For the year? So therefore it would be higher than 50% in the second half?

Michael G. Potter

It will be rising for the second half of the year and we still think we’ll be close to 50% for the year in total. So, yes, it would have to be over 50% for the second half of the year.

Paul Coster – JPMorgan

Okay, got it. Then in your prepared remarks, Shawn, you talked of profitable sales focus. What does that mean? Is it coming about because the market is supply constrained? Or were you doing something that you think was wrong in the past? What is the nature of this focus on profitable sales?

Shawn Qu

Well, Paul, I have been saying this for # years now. Every quarter Every quarter I have being emphasizing our strategy, which is to go for quality sales, the profitable sales and to credit-worthy customers. So I am repeating our strategy that we only focus on profitable sales rather than chasing volumes and with an unattractive price or bad credit terms. So the strategy doesn't change.

Paul Coster – JPMorgan

Okay, my bad. Then my last question is, one of the issues which I think investors have is that they have got excellent visibility into strong earnings for the next few quarters; and then, of course, it fades a bit in the end of 2015 through 2016. Can you talk to us a little bit about how you think the pipeline can build and the profitability can be sustained beyond 2015?

Michael G. Potter

Paul, now, look at our pipeline situation for this quarter, next quarter, and also Q1 and Q2 of 2015. The Canadian pipelines will carry the day. And meanwhile we are developing, for example, our Japanese pipeline. As I mentioned in my speech, we starting construction on some of the projects already. So, I expect to see a contributions from those, the Japanese pipelines, in the second half of 2015.

Now, by the way, the Canadian business opportunity is not going to fade away. For example, the Samsung Phase 2 EPC contract is expected to last into the second half of next year. Also, there is also a third phase of the Samsung project, which we already locked in a module supply contract, and we will be seeking the EPC mandate as well.

Also I want to draw your attention that Ontario, Canada government also have initiated a further solar procurement plan for 140 megawatt and the bidding process is expected to start in 2015. So, you can expect that we will be a strong participant in that bidding, and we do have the local advantages.

And now in terms of other projects, there are other project opportunities pop up from other places. Now I’m not going to mention each of them. I also want to mention China. Although we have been conservative in the Chinese market in the past few quarters, it doesn’t mean we are doing nothing. We have been building partnerships, strong partnerships in China. China will be a long-lasting market.

Turning to 10-gigawatt, 15-gigawatt of solar installations every year in the next few years. And at that you will see us to have more and more success in the Chinese market. So, put them all together, I do have strong confidence that our growth visibility will continue into 2015, 2016. Another point I want to stress, Paul, is that throughout our achievement this year, we are going to accumulate a strong cash position, and that cash position will give us a lot of flexibility to capture new opportunities and to grow either organically or through M&A. And not many other solar companies have that kind of financial flexibility. And I hope I answered your question, Paul.

Paul Coster – JPMorgan

Yes, that’s very helpful. Thank you.

Shawn Qu

Thank you, Paul.

Operator

Thank you. And your next question comes from the line of Frank He from Goldman Sachs. Please go ahead.

Frank He – Goldman Sachs

Thanks for taking my question and congratulations on the results. First question is about your total solution revenue in Q2. We calculated it should be around $203 million. You mentioned that $60 million will come from the Concord project. So, I just wonder, what is the remaining $140 million coming from? Is that from the EPC or other progress building projects?

Michael G. Potter

The rest of the total solutions revenue basically comes from our percentage-of-completion projects in the Canada, which includes projects we developed ourselves and then sold to Blackstone, and the EPC projects.

Frank He – Goldman Sachs

Okay. So the margin for these remaining projects should be similar to this $60 million project, right?

Michael G. Potter

The margins for the EPC projects tend to be in the mid-teens and the margins for our Canadian projects are 20% or higher depending on the individual project.

Frank He – Goldman Sachs

Okay. The second question is about your Q3 margin guidance, which is in the range of 19% to 21%. So I just wonder, can you give us some color about the split between the modules and also the solutions in Q3?

Michael G. Potter

We expect our total solutions business to contribute more strongly to the gross margin improvement in Q3, because the margins for the projects tend to be higher than our module margin. Our module margins certainly were quite good in Q2 the mid to upper mid-teens. And we expect that to continue into the next quarter.

Frank He – Goldman Sachs

Okay, got it. The last question is about your China project pipeline. As you just mentioned, you will have 80 megawatts to be constructed in Q3. So just wonder if you have any detailed plans to, let’s say, how much capacity will be connected to the grid by the end of this year or next year?

Shawn Qu

Frank this is Shawn speaking. As you know the permitting process in China in sometimes is unpredictable and often gets pushed to the later part of year. At this moment, we have 18 megawatts from three projects one in Shanxi Province, one in Jiangsu Province; another one is in Yunnan Province, which we will be able to start this quarter. And for the balance, we will have to see how the actual permitting process is going. And as you know, the project in China always fall into Q3, Q4. and I expect this year to be something similar.

Frank He – Goldman Sachs

Okay, got it. Thank you.

Shawn Qu

Thank you.

Operator

And your next question comes from the line of Colin Rusch from Northland. Please go ahead.

Colin Rusch – Northland Capital Markets

Thanks so much, guys. Can you talk a little bit about the pricing trajectory and the gross margin trajectory you are expecting as you go into 3Q? It looks like 2Q results, ASPs on those models can out right around $0.72 on average across the platform; and obviously the European prices are supportive there. But we'd love to dig in a little bit more on price trajectory by market, particularly in Japan, where I think there is some really investor concern about price compression and margin compression there.

Michael G. Potter

So, we quite often get questions on Japan, and I think I will address that as the main part of my answer. And the key thing to understand for Japan is we sell underneath our own brand name. And we are established in a well-known brand inside of Japan. So we don’t get the full pricing power that a local Japanese brand might get, but we certainly get superior pricing powers and other brands not recognized in the country. Most of the price down over the last – has come more from currency changes, with the yen shrinking against the US dollar. There is some price pressure in Japan, and we do expect prices to gradually come down there. But we are not experiencing the same severity that people seem to think is happening. Is that okay?

Operator

I'm afraid his line seems to have dropped out. (Operator Instructions) would you like to go to the next…

Shawn Qu

Go on to the next question please.

Operator

And our question is from the line of Nitin Kumar from Nomura. Please go ahead.

Nitin Kumar – Nomura Securities

Great quarter. Thanks for taking the call. Just a couple of things. In case of the four projects to BlackRock, what portion is still left to be recognized as revenue? So in terms of 3Q, what should we see in terms of 3Q, what should we see in terms of recognition from this particular pipeline in EPC?

Michael G. Potter

Most of it have come – most of it has been recognized by the end of Q2. There will be some revenue in Q3. Our PowerPoint, which will post to our website relatively soon, will have a little bit more information to reconcile that or I can follow-up with you afterwards if you need a little bit more detail on it. The projects are, I think one of them is completed and reached COD, and the other two are relatively advanced in their construction.

Nitin Kumar – Nomura Securities

Got it. Other than that you have three projects – actually five projects which are fully constructed, two at Liskeard, William Rutley, Gold Light, and Mighty Solar. William Rutley, Liskeard, these are the TransCanada projects. Do we – should we expect these to be transferred to TransCanada over the next 3 months?

Michael G. Potter

For our guidance, we are saying we are expecting to get four of the COD projects to be recognized this quarter. So that would mean that there would be some projects recognized with TransCanada. We always add the caveat that the testing process, and the legal and customer acceptance process is subject to delays, some of which are not under our control so that’s our current expectation today, but it may not happen.

Nitin Kumar – Nomura Securities

I understand. Lastly, for the YieldCo kind of vehicle, would that be only for Japan market? Would that – could you probably do something for the Canadian projects, maybe buy them back and push them into a YieldCo? Or is that not an option?

Shawn Qu

Yes, Nitin, this is Shawn speaking. You’re asking a very good question, and this is exactly why we want to wait until early next year. First of all, I am still evaluating the sales versus the holding strategies. Now, second, if we decided to launch a YieldCo, then clearly we have strong Japanese pipeline. And also we will at same time develop – therefore we will analyze the different strategy country different strategies, either a country-specific YieldCo or a global YieldCo.

In the case of global YieldCo, we will have to develop a strategy to increase the portfolio, for example, in North America. And there we will do that either through organic growth or JV and partnership. That’s all – those are all of the questions we will answer, and the strategy we will develop in the next few months. But indeed, you touched on all the good questions. And let us prepare a well-thought strategy in the next few months and communicate with the Street.

Nitin Kumar – Nomura Securities

Thanks, Shawn. I will jump back in the queue. I have a couple more, but I can do it later. Thanks.

Shawn Qu

Thanks, Nitin.

Operator

And your next question is back on the line from Colin Rusch. Please go ahead, Colin.

Colin Rusch - Northland Securities

Apologies for the technical difficulties. Could you also walk us through what is going on in the China market right now? Certainly that is of utmost concern for a lot of folks, in terms of the acceleration of demand into the back half, and any changes that you are expecting in terms of the distributed generation protocols and tariff rates.

Shawn Qu

Yes, Colin, this is Shawn speaking. As you already know, China started just over 1 gigawatt in the first half of the year and we have seen some bidding activities for equipment such as solar modules in the first half of the year. But not many of the bidding – not many contracts signed after the bidding. Now in recent months in July and August we’re start to see increased level of bidding activities and so the market start to get heated up a little bit. I haven't seen the kind of hot activities like last year yet, and I don't know when will that happen. I hope that will happen soon.

On other hand, as you know, for Canadian Solar, we have a very strong global sales channel and brand coverage. So for the module sales part we never really rely on the China market. So we are kind of immune to the situation there. And policy side you have all read the recent report of the speech by the energy chief of China, Mr. Wu, that he want to achieve 13 gigawatt and he will put all the effort to make sure the country achieves 13 gigawatt. That is a very clear public statement. And indeed we heard that the policy will get flexible for the distributed generation. I do expect all this to happen. However, I think – now meanwhile, we still see sometimes a disconnect in the field.

For example, the projects which are supposed to get fully permitted and go ahead, still waiting for reconnection confirmation from the grid. Things like that. The same kind of disconnect we see in the Japanese market. So, I guess it is pretty global, that it takes a while to put all the pieces together for a project. And all-in-all, I guess China will eventually achieve the 13-gigawatt level; but so far, I haven't seen this to cause any module price increase in China yet. So that is my observation so far. Now again, our business in the second quarter revenue profitability doesn't really dependent on the China market. So, we are more or less immune to the situation here.

Colin Rusch – Northland Securities

All right. Just so I am clear on that speech, your understanding is that 13-gigawatts is very real and officials are going to be working towards that. So with the data that we have about first-half installations we are looking at 9-gigawatts to 10-gigawatts of installs in the second half which, given that we are already in mid-August, would end up getting done in the next 4.5 months or so, which is a pretty healthy ramp for the market. So, just wanted to make sure that that is correct. Then also would love to get some comments around developing economies. Certainly in Mexico, Chile, and other markets, South Africa, and other places have become more robust and more important. Just love to hear what you are seeing on the ground in those markets?

Shawn Qu

Yes, for the China market, put it this way. On one hand, I think China have a good chance to reach what the government wants to achieve. Now on other hand, you are perfectly right. China only installed 3-gigawatt in the first half of the year. And July and August the installation activity is not particularly strong. I only see increased level of bidding process, bidding request. So people really have to rush in the next 4 months. So let see how it actually fare – play out. And talk about Mexico and Chile, those are interesting markets. And I haven’t seen too many project construction in Mexico yet. And Chile, you have heard many discussions there, and there are some strong players there. Canadian Solar hasn’t built a project in Chile yet, so I am not expert there, we do have people to cover those areas and I may have some good news to tell you later on.

Colin Rusch - Northland Securities

Perfect. Thanks so much, guys.

Shawn Qu

Thanks Colin.

Operator

And your next question is from the line of Aditya Satghare from FBR Capital Markets. Please go ahead.

Aditya Satghare - FBR Capital Markets

Thank you. Good evening, all, and good to see the strong execution in the quarter. I had two questions. Firstly, on Japan, can you talk about some of your development activities in Japan and how you see the project finance market opening up in that country? And maybe talk about the outlook for developing smaller projects versus some of the larger projects you have there?

Shawn Qu

Yes, we see both international banks and local banks, playing actively in the Japan market. In our case, after the effort in the past few quarters they start to warm up for the Canadian Solar's project pipeline. We have shown our project data room to some of those financial institutes. And so far, we have received quite a few term sheets from both Japanese local banks and the international banks. They have different requirements. For example, they prefer different EPC providers. But they all offer reasonable terms.

Now in terms of small project versus big project, most of the major banks, as you can expect, like to focus on large projects because the DDU [ph] work is the same and so of course they want to do big projects. Now on the other hand small projects like 1 megawatt, 2 megawatt projects takes only a few months to build, and the turnaround is very fast. Once we connect it, we can get it financed or find a buyer. So it is not too much pain to us either.

Aditya Satghare - FBR Capital Markets

Okay, got it. My second question is on pricing. Can you talk about what you are seeing in the market, especially given all the demand for the new YieldCos? And then what does it mean for the three projects in Canada which you have not yet sold? What kind of impact can we expect to see on those projects?

Michael G. Potter

Like we said in our remarks is that the YieldCo is certainly increasing the pricing for completed projects. We haven't seen much evidence of earlier-stage development and having a lot of impact at that phase, but the price per project is definitely going up. We have not completed the sale of the projects, the three projects in Canada, though we are pretty advanced on that. We certainly expect to see much better than the approximately C$60 million that we are currently getting for the projects. You could see a certain breakthrough in the desire for people to invest in solar in many markets, and that is helping our project business today.

Aditya Satghare - FBR Capital Markets

All right, thank you. That’s all I had.

Operator

Thank you. And your next question comes from the line of Josh Baribeau of Canaccord. Please go ahead.

Josh Baribeau – Canaccord Genuity

Hi, thanks. We haven't talked too much about costs. I assume that some of the issues that you encountered due to the cell plant last quarter have been resolved and you’re back to around $0.53, or if not a little lower, cents per watt?

Michael G. Potter

Yes, for internally manufactured using a full Chinese bill of material, we are at or just below $0.50 a watt right now. If you used outside cells, particularly Taiwanese cells with we’re using towards the beginning of the quarter – that is a little higher; more like $0.53 or $0.54 blended in. The cell plant is up and fully running, and we are currently building out our new golden line in our new factory north of Suzhou, and we expect that to be operational fairly soon as well. That is only 60-megawatts of capacity, but we are using that to bring up the overall efficiency of our cell process, and then use that to bring the technique to our existing cell plant.

Shawn Qu

I want to just add a few points. In the first quarter, other than the instant-yield cell factory, the fact that the market was hot; also make the wafer and external cell cost a little bit high. But into the – after Q2, we have seen the wafer price drop pretty much to below last Q4 level and also the cell price also reduce. So somehow our cost of using our own cell and modules is more or less in the same line, same ballpark as using the wafer and cells produced by other Chinese supply partners. So that again proved the advantage of our business model that, although when the market was hot the guys who have vertical integration may see a little bit, $0.01 or $0.02 of low costs, but once the market reverse a little bit, then our flexible supply chain starts to show a clear advantage.

Josh Baribeau – Canaccord Genuity

Great. Talk a little bit about your strategy for I guess projects going forward, as obviously the things you have in your pipeline tend to be more large-scale. Are you focusing at all on, let's call it, maybe medium or small size commercial? Or maybe just tell us a little bit about your distributed strategy, if any?

Shawn Qu

Are you – do you refer to the project isn’t it.

Josh Baribeau – Canaccord Genuity

Yes, sorry.

Shawn Qu

And the size of the project, right?

Josh Baribeau – Canaccord Genuity

Yes.

Shawn Qu

Well, at this moment, most of the projects in your pipeline – our pipeline utility scale project and 10-megawatt up in normal range of the size. Now in Japan, we do have some smaller size one, two or five, six megawatt but for utility scale project we also prefer a little bit bigger size. And moving into the future, in some markets there will be good opportunity for distributed generation. For example, I think in US you will see more and more commercial-scale DC type of project, and also in China we will see more and more DC projects in the future.

Josh Baribeau – Canaccord Genuity

Okay. Then maybe just a follow-up to that, what do you expect for the economics or maybe the gross margin – however you want to think about that – of those projects versus utility? I would assume it would probably be at least as good, if not better, as those projects tend to be a little bit higher-priced?

Shawn Qu

Well, in case of China, it depends on whether – for the DC project how the roof-top looks like and also whether it is a self-consumption model are directly to the grid. So there are some variations, so I don’t really know yet. As you know, the DC market in China is just developing. For Canada –, for US, you're right; the DC tend to be more profitable than the utility-scale project.

Josh Baribeau – Canaccord Genuity

Okay. Then just maybe finally for me, can you remind me? I think you have said historically or previously that you have completed Chinese projects. Are those already - those are on the balance sheet? And any updates on whether those have been connected to the grid and/or if you are receiving energy revenues yet?

Michael G. Potter

We have two utility-scale projects connected; they were connected at the end of last year. One is 30 megawatts in Xinjiang Province, and one is 10 megawatts in Jiangsu Province. They are being treated as held-for-sale, because we are still looking for buyers, and we are operating them. Electricity revenue collected for those projects reduces the carrying cost on the balance sheet and doesn’t show up. We are being paid for the electricity for both the projects and receiving regular FIT payments from the Xinjiang Province project right now.

Josh Baribeau – Canaccord Genuity

Great. That's it for me. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And your next question comes from Pierre Maccagno from Dougherty. Please go ahead.

Pierre Maccagno – Dougherty & Company

Hey, congratulations on the quarter.

Shawn Qu

Thank you.

Pierre Maccagno – Dougherty & Company

I see that your guidance for the third quarter is really – it doesn't seem to have any impact from the sales into the US. I would assume that there would be some gross margin pressure from modules selling into the US. So could you comment how come there doesn't seem to be any effect?

Shawn Qu

Pierre hi; this is Shawn speaking. The gross margin guidance for Q3 already takes into account the impact from the U.S. sales. As I mentioned early on, the antidumping duty, that caused the decrease of the margins for U.S. branding product. However, our business model is a balanced approach, and a lot of our revenue and profit come from the total solution business. So that influence impact is very well more than absorbed by the increased revenue and profit from the total solutions, the project business. And not to mention that even for the solar module side we still have strong – the module ASPs still have strong support from our sales to Europe and also to Japan.

We deliver significant quantities to those countries and the price to those countries also help to support the overall ASP for the module. All-in-all I think overseas ASPs for pure module sales drop from second quarter to third quarter. Now it may affect some pure module companies, significantly, but in our case, we are not a pure module manufacturer at all. And as Michael said significant part of revenue – more than like half or more than 50% of our revenue for the second half for Q3 and Q4 will come from the total solutions business and the majority of profit will also come from that business. So you can’t really evaluate us and compare us with pure solar module company.

Pierre Maccagno – Dougherty & Company

I agree. I am learning your – you were saying that you might look to set up manufacturing plants in some other countries to supply to the US. What geographies would you be – or might you consider?

Shawn Qu

We’re still seeing conducting our feasibility study so let us – let me update you later, when we finalize our feasibility study.

Pierre Maccagno – Dougherty & Company

Okay. Thank you very much.

Shawn Qu

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you and your next question comes from Pranab Sarmah from AM Capital. Please go ahead.

Pranab Sarmah – AM Capital

Thank you for taking my questions, gentlemen. Great quarter. First, can you let us know a little bit on OpEx guidance for 3Q and potentially for 4Q? How we would look at OpEx for your Company?

Michael G. Potter

I expected to go up a little bit from where it is today but not a significant jump, a lot of the selling sales and marketing expense jumps up from shipping costs. And the pure module sales are not going up as much from Q2 to Q3 as they did from Q1 and Q2. So there will be some increase but not a lot.

Pranab Sarmah – AM Capital

(indiscernible) and on module ASP for third-quarter guidance, I think practically 50% of revenues come from the module sales. What type of ASP are you expecting on the module side?

Michael G. Potter

For Q3 we should be around $0.67 a watt approximately for module sales. And we’re about $0.70 a watt, for module sales in Q2.

Pranab Sarmah – AM Capital

And lastly, a little bit on the YieldCo side. I think one of the key competitive edge to become a successful YieldCo is low-cost financing or access to low-cost financing. Can you give us a little bit of idea like how you are going to build up a pool of finance, which is – cost of capital is relatively low?

Michael G. Potter

I think that it is better that we discuss that as a topic when we talk about the YieldCo in general, which we said that we would do somewhere at the beginning of next year, we have had no issue accessing competitive financing for our project so far. So we don’t expect to that would be a significant issue going forward.

Pranab Sarmah – AM Capital

Got it. Thank you. Have a good quarter ahead.

Shawn Qu

Thank you.

Operator

There are no further comments, and now I would like to hand back over to management for closing remarks.

Shawn Qu

Thank you, operator and thank you everyone for joining the call today. And thank you for your continuing support, and if you have any further follow-up questions after today’s call, please contact us. And have a great day.

Operator

Thank you for your participation in today’s conference. This concludes the presentation. You may now disconnect and have a very good day.

Copyright policy: All transcripts on this site are the copyright of Seeking Alpha. However, we view them as an important resource for bloggers and journalists, and are excited to contribute to the democratization of financial information on the Internet. (Until now investors have had to pay thousands of dollars in subscription fees for transcripts.) So our reproduction policy is as follows: You may quote up to 400 words of any transcript on the condition that you attribute the transcript to Seeking Alpha and either link to the original transcript or to www.SeekingAlpha.com. All other use is prohibited.

THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HERE IS A TEXTUAL REPRESENTATION OF THE APPLICABLE COMPANY'S CONFERENCE CALL, CONFERENCE PRESENTATION OR OTHER AUDIO PRESENTATION, AND WHILE EFFORTS ARE MADE TO PROVIDE AN ACCURATE TRANSCRIPTION, THERE MAY BE MATERIAL ERRORS, OMISSIONS, OR INACCURACIES IN THE REPORTING OF THE SUBSTANCE OF THE AUDIO PRESENTATIONS. IN NO WAY DOES SEEKING ALPHA ASSUME ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY INVESTMENT OR OTHER DECISIONS MADE BASED UPON THE INFORMATION PROVIDED ON THIS WEB SITE OR IN ANY TRANSCRIPT. USERS ARE ADVISED TO REVIEW THE APPLICABLE COMPANY'S AUDIO PRESENTATION ITSELF AND THE APPLICABLE COMPANY'S SEC FILINGS BEFORE MAKING ANY INVESTMENT OR OTHER DECISIONS.

If you have any additional questions about our online transcripts, please contact us at: transcripts@seekingalpha.com. Thank you!