Ascent Solar Blames Anticipated Lack of Demand for Market Pivot

| About: Ascent Solar (ASTI)

By Eric Wesoff

Ascent Solar's (NASDAQ:ASTI) stock price was just ravaged today -- it's down 25 percent to $2.15 on news of its most recent press release:

  • The firm is changing its strategy - moving from BAPV/BIPV to niche markets like military and defense; custom near-space applications; off-grid charging solutions in developing countries; power for portable electronics; and custom and standard products for rooftop integration on buses, trucks and trains. Ascent believes that it can sell its products in these markets at more attractive margins than currently possible for ground mount applications or BIPV and BAPV markets.
  • The company is reducing staffing and cutting back on operating expenses
  • CEO Farhad Moghadam is stepping down to spend more time with his family. Ron Eller, an Ascent board member for the past two years, has been appointed the company's new President and CEO. (It always seems that fired CEOs are being punished by having to spend more time with their family.)

The Thornton, Colordao-based Ascent's product is CIGS PV on flexible plastic substrates but the firm has never reached critical mass. Ascent's market capitalization is $69 milllion, the firm had a net loss of $31.2 million for the year ended December 31, 2010, and reported an accumulated deficit of $77.3 million as of December 31, 2010.

All of that on 2010 sales of $811,000.

As reported in its most recent 10K, "We expect to incur net losses for the foreseeable future."

The firm applied for funding under the DOE Loan Guarantee Program for its planned FAB3 production line with a nameplate capacity of 150 MW per year. The DOE is currently performing a due diligence review. The DOE might be a little flinchy on loan guarantees furnished to marginal firms, given the recent political spotlight on these activities.

The firm said its market focus pivot was due to the potential fall in demand of solar following Europe's move to lower subsidies.

Norsk Hydro (NHY) currently owns approximately 25 percent of Ascent's common stock.

In a global solar market all about ramping-up big and scrubbing cost out, Ascent seems to have surrendered -- resigning themselves to solar luggage and battery chargers a la Konarka. The firm seems to be leaving massive and growing residential, commercial and utility markets to the big boys and the CIGS startups like Solyndra (SOLY), MiaSolé, NanoSolar, HelioVolt who are playing a much higher-stakes game.

Ascent is altering its business strategy to forego the rooftop market and pursue niche products such as solar luggage. It recently signed a distributuon deal with Germany's Sunload Mobile Solutions to provide flexible thin film PV for portable solar products.