By Ucilia Wang
Q-Cells (OTCPK:QCLSF) is joining a growing number of companies that are selling shares or issuing IOUs at a time when making good profits has proven difficult.
The company said Wednesday it has sold its stake in Norway-based Renewable Energy Corp. (REC) for about €530 million. Germany-based Q-Cells holds a 17.2 percent stake, or roughly 85 million shares, in REC, which sells silicon wafers to Q-Cells for making solar cells.
Q-Cells plans to use the proceeds to cut its debt. The solar company expects to reduce up to €20 million in interest payments in 2009 through this deal.
REC not only has been Q-Cells' supplier but also partner in a joint venture called Sovello. Sovello makes use of Evergreen Solar's (ESLR) wafer technology, which uses less silicon to cut costs, in order to produce solar cells and assemble them into panels. Marlboro, Mass.-based Evergreen also is a stakeholder in Sovello.
While Q-Cells is unloading its investment, a number of other solar companies recently announced plans to sell shares or borrow money to keep their finances in good shape.
Evergreen Solar also hopes to raise up to $100 million by offering different kinds of securities, the company said in an April filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company said it would use the proceeds for several things, including working capital and debt payments.
The company needs money to carry out its plan to build a silicon wafer factory and outsource cell and panel manufacturing to Jiawei Solar in China. Evergreen announced these plans only a week ago, when it released its first-quarter earnings (see Evergreen Outsources Cell and Panel Production to Jaiwei Solar). Evergreen's net loss widened during the first quarter to reach $64.3 million.
SunPower (SPWRA), which also posted a net loss for the first quarter, said last month that it would sell shares and issue debts to raise about $400 million.
The San Jose, Calif.-based company said it would sell about 9 million shares of its Class A stock for $22 per share. Underwriters could buy an additional 1.35 million shares.
SunPower also said it would borrow about $200 million by issuing senior convertible debentures, which would give creditors the option to convert them into shares of the company's Class A stock later. Underwriters could purchase an additional, $30 million worth of debentures.
Selling shares would dilute SunPower's stock, analysts noted. But the move might be necessary for the company to get ready when demand for its solar panels improves later this year, said Gordon Johnson, head of alternative energy research at Hapoalim Securities, in a research note.
SunPower posted a disappointing first-quarter earnings. The company posted a net income loss of $4.8 million, compared with a net income of $31.4 million from the fourth quarter and $12 million from the first quarter of 2008. Company executives cited the recession, long winter in Europe and sluggish demand in the U.S. market among reasons for the lackluster performance (see Pricing Pressure Beating Down on SunPower).