Canadian Solar raises 2016 revenue estimate, says Q1 decline less than expected

TORONTO – Canadian Solar Inc.’s battered stock got a boost Wednesday after its first-quarter results beat analyst estimates and senior executives raised their revenue outlook for the full year by US$100 million — with room to grow even further.

“We see more megawatt shipments in the second half (of 2016) than the first half,” Canadian Solar’s chairman and chief executive, Shawn Qu, told analysts on a conference call Wednesday.

The company, based in Guelph, Ont., announced that its 2016 annual revenue estimate has been raised to a range of US$3 billion to US$3.2 billion as a result.

Most of that revenue would be from the sale of modules used to turn sunlight into electricity and from power sales.

Qu said a further $200 million to $400 million could be added to 2016 revenue if the company (Nasdaq:CSIQ) decides to sell some of its generating capacity — one of several options under consideration.

“We believe that our solar power plant assets, in low-risk OECD countries, are valuable and very liquid (sellable),” Qu said.

The outlook and first-quarter results — both better than analyst estimates although down from a year ago — helped Canadian Solar’s battered stock price on Wednesday.

The issue closed up $1.92 or 12.42 per cent at US$17.38, although that was still less than half the US$40 it fetched a year ago.

Investors have been wary since some big American and Chinese companies ran into financial trouble as they attempted to cash in on a widespread shift to alternative energy sources, particularly solar.

For example, Missouri-based SunEdison filed for bankruptcy protection in April after a string of acquisitions left it cash-poor. Its stock last traded at 34 cents on April 21 — down from US$33.45 last summer.

Qu said Canadian Solar has a combination of strengths — including a balanced global manufacturing and sales network that can adjust to local changes in market demand.

“We never aim to be just the No. 1 shipment company in solar. We aim to be a Tier 1 solar module provider with a combination of strengths,” Qu said. “I think that separates the winners from the losers.”

Revenue for the first quarter, which Canadian Solar reports in U.S. dollars, was $721.4 million — down 16.2 per cent from US$860.9 million a year earlier, but much better than the analyst consensus of US$663.7 million.

Net income was US$22.6 million or 39 cents per share, down from $61.3 million or $1.04 per share in the first quarter of 2015 but also above an analyst estimate of 13 cents per share.