SAN JOSE, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- SunPower ( SPWRA) has finally reported its long-delayed fourth-quarter earnings. Did the U.S. solar company deliver?

Shares of SunPower were down about 10% in after hours trading.

SunPower reported earnings per share of 47 cents. The Street had forecast earnings per share of 49 cents for the fourth quarter, versus 70 cents a year ago. SunPower's fourth quarter earnings were reduced by three cents as a result of its audit investigation into overstated earnings in the previous two years.

SunPower had revenues of $548 million, while the Street estimate was for $490 million in fourth-quarter sales. In the year-ago fourth quarter SunPower had revenues of $400 million.

SunPower's gross margin was 21.7% in the fourth quarter, lower than its 23.1% margins in the previous quarter and 20.2% margin in the year ago quarter. Margin performance has been a key for solar investors this earnings season.

Gross margins on SunPower's systems business went up from 17% to almost 22%, buts its component gross margins were down by 5%, and down by 15% versus the year-ago quarter.

What's more, SunPower forecast an average sales price decline of 20% in 2010, going beyond the 10%-15% decline that most solar companies have guided investors to in 2010, in terms of pressure on ASPs.

SunPower also guided investors to earnings per share of 5 cents in the first quarter of 2010, versus an estimate of 34 cents from the Street. The Street's full-year estimate of earnings per share of $1.78 was also above the high end of SunPower's earnings guidance, at $1.65.

SunPower's total operating expenses in the fourth quarter were $15 million higher than the third quarter, and approximately $20 million higher than second quarter operating expenses. The solar company spent $3.6 million on its accounting investigation and $1 million on expenses related to the Sunray acquisition. These one-time expenses helped pushed SunPower's quarterly expenses above 10% of revenues.

The Street's revenue guidance of $2 billion in 2010 for SunPower was in line with the low-end of SunPower's guidance.

SunPower said during the conference call after its earnings that it was shifting revenue recognition from the first quarter to the back half of 2010. SunPower said the financing environment for some developers led to a pushback in projects. What's more, the recent accounting investigation pushed fourth quarter projects back as SunPower could not receive financing while having invalid financial statements.

As for the audit investigation, SunPower will restate its financial statements for 2008 and 2009 on a quarterly and annual basis.

The cumulative impact to the restatement period and for the fourth-quarter 2009 totals approximately $33.2 million of additional pre-tax expense, or a reduction to net income of $16.9 million on a GAAP basis, over the entire period, excluding the Audit Committee's investigation expenses of $3.6 million incurred during the fourth quarter 2009.

The restatement has no impact on the company's net cash position or total cash flows for any period affected.

As a result of the investigation, the Audit Committee concluded that certain unsubstantiated accounting entries were made by Philippines-based finance personnel "in order to report results for manufacturing operations that would be consistent with internal expense projections. The entries generally resulted in an understatement of the company's cost of goods sold."

SunPower concluded that the efforts were "not directed at achieving the company's overall financial results or financial analysts' projections of the company's financial results."

SunPower management concluded that there was a "material weaknesses in the company's internal control over financial reporting.

SunPower has hired a new VP and Controller for Asia as a result of the audit investigation.

-- Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.

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