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Solar Stock Watch: Suntech Power, Rally Maker?

WUXI, China ( TheStreet) -- Suntech Power (STP) reported first-quarter results during Thursday's pre-market session that missed Street expectations on earnings per share, but outperformed on revenue estimates.

Suntech earned 11 cents a share, missing Street consensus estimates that ranged from 13 cents to 15 cents, however, a pre-reported foreign exchange loss of over $24 million was the difference between an earnings beat and an earnings miss.

Suntech revenue of $588 was above Street consensus estimates, which ranged from $560 million to $562 million.

Suntech consolidated gross margin was 19.5% in the first quarter, below 23.8% gross margin in the fourth quarter, and below Street estimates. However, Suntech had guided to lower gross margins when it pre-reported a big forex charge earlier in May. The Chinese solar module maker also projected gross margin to be in the high teens for the second quarter 2010.
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Suntech expects second quarter shipments to increase by a single-digit level. Suntech upped its shipment target for the full year modestly, from 1.25 gigawatts to 1.3 GW.

Suntech accounts receivable totaled $467.7 million as of March 31, 2010, compared with $384.4 million as of December 31, 2009. The depreciation of the euro has taken a toll on accounts receivable value across the solar sector balance sheets. Suntech said the increase in accounts receivable was primarily due to higher sales in the last month of the quarter.

Some Chinese solar competitors like Yingli Green Energy (YGE) and Trina Solar (TSL - Get Report) have noted in recent earnings calls efforts to bring down the average number of days that a receivable stays on the books to limit exposure to euro depreciation. Suntech said that in the first quarter, average days that sales were outstanding was 72 days, compared to 60 days in the fourth quarter of 2009.

In a strategic shift, SunPower said it was transitioning a plant that was being built to produce thin film solar modules to a multicrystalline silicon solar plant.
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