SunPower announces positive results

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The U.S. photovoltaic manufacturer’s losses were $144.8 million for October to December, up sharply from $48.5 million for July to September and $93 million for the final quarter of 2011.

But results for the full-year painted a rosier picture, thanks in part to the $2 billion-$2.5 billion sale of the Antelope Valley Solar projects to a subsidiary of veteran investor Warren Buffet’s MidAmerican Solar.

Net losses over the 12 months narrowed from $613.7 million in 2011, to $352 million, with revenue rising from $2.37 billion to $2.42 billion on the back of the production of 936 MW of output, up from 922 MW.

Although output in the final three months of the year dropped to 153 MW from 227 MW in the previous quarter – and 261 MW year-on-year – revenues rose in the period to $679 million from $648.9 million in Q3 and $625.3 million like-for-like.

The U.S. still makes up the biggest portion of SunPower’s market, with utility-scale plants like Antelope Valley – the largest combined photovoltaic plant in the world at 579 MW – and the 75% complete California Valley Solar Ranch, coupled with 14,200 residential leases totaling 114 MW booked to date on the company’s U.S. rooftop solar leasing scheme.

But SunPower announced two projects totaling 33 MW in South Africa, an expansion in the Japanese rooftop market accounting for a record 15% of revenues in Q4 and the signing of a SunPower C7 tracker supply deal in China.

The bottom line was also boosted by a 25% reduction in manufacturing costs and SunPower’s high efficiency credentials were emphasized by what the company claims is the world’s first 21% efficient solar panel and the development of the 23.5% efficient 3G Maxeon solar cell.

SunPower is predicting a small rise in output in the first three months of 2013, to 150 to 170 MW, attended by a fall in revenue to $450 million to $525 million.

Despite continuing to struggle in Europe, the company is predicting a return to profit in the region in the second half of the year. The figures also revealed the $14.1 million obsolete equipment cost of a change in deployment strategy for the company’s next generation solar cells, as well as a class action lawsuit settlement of $19.7 million.

The settlement related to an Audit Commission investigation in November 2009 into "unsubstantiated accounting entries".