First Solar, SunPower to float joint yieldco

First Solar and SunPower Corp. are moving forward with their planned yieldco joint venture, announcing on Tuesday plans to take the new company public.

The new subsidiary, dubbed 8point3 Energy Partners, will own and operate a portfolio of selected solar generation assets. The joint venture has filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for an initial public offering of Class A shares representing limited partner interests in the company. The number of shares to be offered and the IPOI price of the shares have not yet been determined. 8point3 Energy Partners will apply to list the shares on the NASDAQ Global Market, according to a statement released by SunPower on Tuesday. Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Citigroup will act as lead book running managers for the IPO.

Thin film giant First Solar and high efficiency c-Si manufacturer SunPower, which is owned by French oil giant Total, announced their yieldco plans in February. The companies will move planned installations from their pipelines and existing PV power plants to the yieldco.

The move follows SunEdison’s successful launch last year of its yieldco subsidiary, TerraForm.

First Solar and SunPower’s yieldco plans has scored high points among some leading market watchers, although not universal praise.

"In my opinion … Total is basically sending the signal that they want First Solar to acquire SunPower," said solar entrepreneur Jigar Shah in a recent GreenTech Media podcast. "There really is no reason for them to join up, basically they are showing weakness."

SunPower is 66% owned by Total.

Shah noted that his analysis was not based on inside information, but rather that he believed the plans indicated that neither firm has the cash flow to take a yieldco forward under its own steam.

"I think that Total is the one leading this charge," said Shah. "These guys are generally arch enemies, they compete regularly on utility scale projects."

Analysts at Deutsche Bank, however, described the move as "a significant positive" and "probably the best strategy for both companies."