RBC Says Sell First Solar As Earnings Power Overestimated

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- RBC Capital cut its rating on solar energy company First Solar  (FSLR) to Underperform, its equivalent of a "sell" rating, in a note to investors earlier today.

WHAT'S NEW: First Solar's earnings power is significantly below analysts' consensus estimate and the company's guidance, RBC Capital analyst Mahesh Sanganeria wrote. The company's profits will be limited due to the lower selling prices of its modules and its declining gross margin, the analyst stated. Moreover, even if demand for modules is very strong, First Solar's sales will be limited by its capacity, Sanganeria contended. Furthermore, First Solar's cost advantage over competing modules has eroded and may disappear completely, partly due to significant declines in polysilicon prices and manufacturing efficiency improvements, the analyst stated. Sanganeria downgraded the shares to Underperform from Sector Perform and lowered the price target on the stock to $34 from $54.

WHAT'S NOTABLE: In contrast, UBS was upbeat on the outlook for another name in the solar sector, SunEdison  (SUNE), in its own note to investors today. SunEdison is may begin paying a dividend and could expand into Canadian renewable projects, UBS analyst Julien Dumoulin-Smith wrote. The company may acquire Canadian assets for relatively cheap prices, said Dumoulin-Smith, who kept a $32 price target and Buy rating on SunEdison.

PRICE ACTION: In afternoon trading, First Solar dropped 6.7% to $51.41 and SunEdison slipped 1.7% to $30.14.

CORRECTION: This story corrects an earlier one to clarify that 8point3 Energy Partners is a growth-oriented limited partnership formed by First Solar and SunPower to own, operate and acquire solar energy generation projects. TerraForm Global is the diversified, dividend growth-oriented company formed to acquire clean energy generation assets from SunEdison.

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