SAN JOSE (
) -- One of the biggest U.S. solar players,
is in the midst of an accounting crisis that has taken a heavy toll on its shares.
A complete accounting of the accounting mess, directly from SunPower, is expected soon -- on Dec. 16 to be exact.
Regardless, the ongoing uncertainty hasn't stopped investors and analysts from going ahead and placing their bets on the extent to which the accounting issues will either hurt or help SunPower's share price. And the Street is clearly divided on the issue of how much SunPower's shares should be discounted, or purchased, as a result of the market's reaction to the news of the need for a potential earnings restatement.
When the news first broke mid-November, SunPower shares dropped 20% in one day. Since then, however, SunPower has been on recovery road, even though SunPower management has provided no additional information ahead of the Dec. 16 conference call.
SunPower shares have climbed back up $4 since its 52-week low of $19.70 reached on Nov. 20. On Monday morning, after an upgrade to overweight from Barclays, Sunpower reached $24.
There has been plenty of momentum of late in solar, on a combination of earnings news and analyst upgrades.
Suntech Power Holdings
were both beneficiaries of analyst upgrades this week along with SunPower; while
by many accounts had the best earnings report of the season.
The Barclays upgrade was not the only recent bullish outlook on SunPower.
Pacific Crest Securities also upgraded the firm, arguing the for investors with a healthy risk appetite, the downward pressure on the stock price since the accounting revelations were an over-correction by investors skittish about any accounting-related issues.
On the flip side, the most skeptical analysts, such as Gordon Johnson of Hapoalim Securities, believe that before all is said and done the
accounting scandal will be revealed as accounting fraud, and the restatement of second quarter earnings will be major in its magnitude.
If Johnson's predictions come true, the fact that the company completed a convertible bond offering during a period of time when it was misstating its earnings could exact a huge hit on the company through the dozens of class-action lawsuits now pending in courts around the country.
Only time will tell, and that time is coming soon, with the SunPower management conference call scheduled for next week. Meanwhile, what is your forecast for SunPower?
--Written by Eric Rosenbaum in New York
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