SunPower posts 75% quarterly revenue increase for Q4

Vertically-integrated U.S. solar company SunPower enjoyed a quarter-on-quarter GAAP revenue increase of 75% in the final three months of last year, taking annual revenue for 2014 to $3.02 billion.

SunPower’s Q4 2014 revenue reached $1.164 billion, up from $662. 7 million in Q3 and a near 100% increase on Q4 2013, when revenue came in at $638.1 million.

Annually, the company made more than $500 million more in 2014 when compared to the previous year, with 2013 delivering revenue of $2.5 billion.

Net income for the quarter surged, reaching $134.7 million, which massively outstripped the $32 million net income posted in Q3 2014 and dwarfed the $223 million income registered in the fourth and final quarter of 2013. For 2014 as a whole, net income rose to $245.9 million, up from $95.6 million in 2013.

SunPower’s soaring fortunes can be largely attributed to a series of strategic and landmark developments in 2014, not least the commencement of construction of the 579 MW Solar Star Project for Berkshire Hathaway Energy and Southern California Edison, of which more than 412 MW is already connected to the grid.

The company also made a number of strategic investments in its growing distributed generation (DG) business as it looks to position itself as a leader in the emerging smart energy ecosystem.

While North America remained SunPower’s most important market, the development of a series of headline projects in Europe and Africa also helped to swell the company’s coffers, not least the ongoing development of the 86 MW Prieska Project in South Africa – the country in which SunPower will seek to ramp its 160 MW panel manufacturing facility in an effort to support further large-scale PV projects in the region, SunPower CEO Tom Werner confirmed.

In the APAC region, SunPower remains "very positive", with Werner noting that its high efficiency panel technology has enabled the company to maintain a leading position in the Japanese rooftop market. "In China," Werner added, "we are seeing significant traction through our manufacturing and project development joint ventures."

SunPower expects to add 250 MW of PV capacity in China in 2015, and currently boasts a portfolio of more than 4 GW in what is the world’s largest solar market. Closer to home, the company expects to begin production at its new Fab 4 facility by the mid-way point of the year.

Ahead to 2015 and beyond

SunPower’s Werner remarked that the company’s commercial pipeline stood at $1.4 billion, while there was a “sequential” rise in bookings for residential systems via cash, loan and lease financing programs.

With this and its global plans in mind, guidance for first-quarter 2015 non-GAAP revenue suggests a figure of between $410 million to $460 million, with a gross margin of 18% – 20%. On a GAAP basis, these figures are estimated at between $420 million to $470 million.

In relation to today’s announcement that SunPower is to form a joint YieldCo vehicle with First Solar, the company confirmed that it is withdrawing previously disclosed fiscal year 2015 guidance "until such time the company can finalize the impact of the proposed YieldCo vehicle on its expected financial performance."

An update on that will be announced later this quarter, but for now, SunPower CFO Chuck Boynton was happy to conclude: "SunPower exited 2014 on a very strong note as our solid execution and demand for our high efficiency technology enabled us to meet or exceed our financial targets for the quarter.

"We continued to add assets to our holdco project portfolio during the quarter and were pleased to announce our intention to form a joint YieldCo vehicle with First Solar. We believe this strategic approach will enable both companies to maximize project economies, lower the cost of capital and generate significant long-term shareholder returns."