Wunderlich estimated that MEMC will end 2012 with about $355 million in cash and $1.7 billion in debt. The company's saving grace is its SunEdison solar project business, but it's a catch 22 earnings-wise: "The company needs access to cash in order to build out solar farms and, ideally, it would have more than this amount in order to operate. Yes, the cash will come in when the solar farms sell, but in the meantime, it is generating no earnings on the carry," O'Neill wrote.
For comparison purposes, First Solar (FSLR), even after all of its troubles in the past year and a real dent in its cash flow profile, still scores 3.6 on the Altman Z scale.
Closer to Energy Conversion's bankruptcy risk home are other niche U.S. solar manufacturers that really set the standard of sub-$1 stocks with bankruptcy risk written all over them:
The Chinese solar companies TheStreet, continue to present some of the biggest bankruptcy red flags. Even if the Chinese government and banks will always bail them out, equity shareholders continue to run the risk of being wiped out in any reorganization.
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