The market's most promising solar energy stock is now a bargain and investors can thank a tornado.
Canadian Solar (CSIQ - Get Report) shares were beaten down by unexpected severe weather but are now set to double. The company is already rebounding from the event, which damaged a manufacturing plant. Moreover, demand for its products is strong and the company has benefited from locating its facilities in China, where manufacturing costs are lower. Many analysts are optimistic about the share price.
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The tornado in June tore through one of Canadian Solar's China-based facilities, disrupting about 20% of the company's manufacturing capacity. The stock has declined nearly 4% over the past month, as investors fret that the industry's number three company will fall further behind its larger competitors, number one First Solar and number two SunPower.
However, management is confident that the damage will prove ephemeral and they're probably right, as rebuilding efforts continue apace. Meanwhile, the company has several promising new projects in the pipeline, especially in Europe where demand for solar is burgeoning. The Continent's economic growth engine, Germany, is a major Canadian Solar client that continues to clamor for its products and services.
With a market cap of $880.68 million, Canadian Solar provides the solar sector with ingots, wafers, cells, and modules. The company also puts together entire solar power systems, a lucrative value-added service that helps the company overcome the commoditization of the solar components business.
Canadian Solar is large enough to avoid many of the financial problems that plague the slew of smaller firms in the fast-growing solar sector. Canadian Solar's return on assets (4.59%) and return on equity (22.38%) are strong and bode well for future growth. Yet the company is small enough to offer the sort of fast, double-digit growth that eludes bigger companies.
Although headquartered in Ontario, Canada, the company has most of its manufacturing facilities in China, where costs are cheaper. Canadian Solar's dual Canadian/Chinese identity allows for low-cost manufacturing but also enables the company to sidestep some of the regulatory obstacles of being officially based in China, where transparency is lacking. This strategy gives Canadian Solar a cost edge over larger, U.S.-based competitors, such as industry leader First Solar.
Canadian Solar is scheduled to report earnings on Aug. 15. The average analyst consensus for the quarter is that earnings per share (EPS) will come in at 39 cents, compared to 31 cents in the same quarter a year ago. Last quarter, the company blew past estimates, which had pegged EPS at 13 cents, constituting an earnings surprise of 158.30%. Canadian Solar could be on track for a similar performance, which would send the stock soaring.
The stock now trades at about $15.26, but the average one-year target price among analysts is $29.54. And yet Canadian Solar shares boast a low valuation in light of these market-beating growth prospects. With a trailing 12-month price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of only 6.64, Canadian Solar's valuation is roughly in line with First Solar and the rest of the industry.
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