Recent Macro News
The last 2 quarters have seen influential countries such as china, India and Saudi Arabia announce heavy commitments to investing in solar infrastructure. The news isn't particularly surprising if you are aware of the hazardous pollution levels in China and India. China, the most populated country in the world, claimed that it will spend over $361 billion on renewable energy development by 2020. According to China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), 40% of that spending will go towards solar and that will result in more than 1000 major solar plants, boosting china's solar capacity by 5 times.
Khalid Al-Falih, the energy minister of Saudi Arabia, announced that the oil capital of the world plans to spend as much as $50 billion on renewable energy. The short-term goal is to generate 10 GW of electricity through solar and wind by 2023. Al-Falih remarks that the long-term goal is to have renewable energy account for 30% of the country's total energy consumption by 2030.
Forbes states that India has installed 5.4 GW in 2016, and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy estimates 15 GW (estimates to around 22% of global demand in 2017) and 16 GW of solar installation for the next two years. The Indian Government aims to accumulate 100 GW of solar by 2022, a feat which will require around $90 billion in total.
The combined future solar spending by these three countries, as well as the rest of the world, is an enormous pie to split between the big players in industry. In this article, I will use fundamental data to compare First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR), Canadian Solar (NASDAQ:CSIQ) and JinkoSolar (NYSE:JKS), 3 heavily undervalued solar leaders which are well positioned to meet increasing global demand. All financial figures are expressed in USD via Bloomberg.
First Solar's $3.94 billion market cap is by far the largest in this group. First Solar is the only company on this list headquartered in the US and has an American management team. Canadian Solar's $855 million market cap is the next highest. Canadian Solar is based in Guelph, Canada, but the management team and production is predominantly Chinese. JinkoSolar's $542 million market is the lowest of the bunch. The company is entirely Chinese from its headquarters to production.
Revenue & Gross Profit & Net income
Please note that analyst consensus Q4 revenue and net income are used to estimate full-year 2016 revenue for Canadian Solar and JinkoSolar. On a GAAP basis, First Solar reported $2.951 billion in revenue and $704 million in gross profit for 2016. Net income came out to be -$382 million due to a $729 million unusual expense which we believe to be asset write-offs. Canadian Solar is expected to earn $2.871 billion in revenue, $459 million in gross profit and $89 million in net income. JinkoSolar is projected to pull in $3.331 billion in revenue, $647 million gross profit and $125 million in net income. JinkoSolar leads the pack in revenue and net income due to the tremendous demand for solar in China, where JinkoSolar conducts a majority of its business. First Solar boasts the highest gross margin at 24% while Canadian Solar and JinkoSolar have gross margins of 16% and 19%, respectively.
Cash & Debt
Looking at the balance sheets of these 3 companies, it's clear why First Solar is trading at a higher earnings multiple compared to its peers. First Solar currently has more than 10x cash on hand than total debt and actually received $5 million in interest income in 2016. Canadian Solar has $481 million cash on hand and a heavy debt load of $2.344 billion. The company is paying an estimated $52 million in interest expense (first 3 quarters annualized). JinkoSolar has $2.663 billion in debt, the highest of the three and dwarfs First Solar's debt of $188 million. JinkoSolar is estimated to pay a substantial $95 million interest payment in 2016 (first 3 quarters annualized). Although Canadian Solar and JinkoSolar are carrying high levels of debt, one must note that Canadian Solar and JinkoSolar have historically financed their projects with debt rather than equity.
Current Price vs. Book Value
All three solar leaders are currently undervalued relative to their book value. First Solar, with over $2.4 billion in retained earnings, is trading 22% below book value. JinkoSolar has been GAAP profitable for the past 10 quarters and accumulated $339 million in retained earnings during the same period. JinkoSolar is currently trading 28% below book value. Canadian Solar at its current price of $15 is trading just $1 below its book value of $16, but the company has been steadily growing its retained earnings from $47 million in Q4 2014 to $294 million as of Q3 2016.
First Solar, with 22 covering analysts, has 5 buy ratings, 4 sell ratings and 13 hold ratings. First Solar is currently trading right around the analyst target of $35.9. Canadian Solar, with 2 buy ratings, 2 sell ratings and 7 hold ratings, is trading slightly below its price target of $15.2. JinkoSolar, with only 7 covering analysts, has 3 buy ratings and 4 hold ratings. The analyst target of $23.2 represents a 36% upside from the stock's current price.
Although we believe all three stocks have bright futures, we currently hold Canadian Solar only. Although Canadian Solar's P/E is not as low as JinkoSolar's and the company's book value is below both of its peers, we remain enticed by Canadian Solar's diverse project portfolio. Since its inception, 100% of JinkoSolar's revenue came from the People's Republic of China. In 2016, 83% of First Solar's revenue came from the US, 5.4% came from India and 11.7% from various other countries. For the 12 months ending 9/30/2016, Canadian Solar derived 41.7% of its revenue from Asia, 46.8% from America (a good portion of which is from Canada) and 11.5% from Europe + other foreign countries. We believe Canadian Solar's diversified global presence positions the company tremendously to meet the increasing global demand for solar. We will continue to buy on dips and may initiate a position in JinkoSolar in the near future.
Disclosure: I am/we are long 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.