SunPower field supervisor Oscar Madrigal demonstrates a panelwashing robot Ethan Miller, Getty Images
<p><span>SunPower field supervisor Oscar Madrigal demonstrates a panel-washing robot on a row of solar panels at the 102-acre, 15-megawatt Solar Array II Generating Station at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.</span></p>

SunPower Plunges After Solar Manufacturer Scraps Profit Goal

Analysts were blindsided by the financial report, which includes a net loss of as much as $175 million this year and the laying off of 1,200 employees.

SunPower Corp. slumped after the second-biggest U.S. solar manufacturer scrapped a target to at least break even this year, in part because of challenging conditions in its power-plant business.

The company cited the extension of a federal investment tax credit that has reduced the urgency to complete new projects by the end of the year, as well as aggressive pricing by industry newcomers. It will close a Philippine panel assembly facility and transfer the equipment to Mexico, cutting 15% of the overall workforce, about 1,200 employees, in the process. The shares slid 30% to $10.36 in after-hours trading on Tuesday in New York.

“We wanted to re-position supply closer to the end market,” CEO Tom Werner said in an interview after the company posted second-quarter earnings. “We’re in transition. We’ve been through this before.”

Besides cutting its workforce, SunPower plans to take restructuring charges of $30 million to $45 million, a substantial portion of which will be incurred in the third quarter, it said in a statement.

It now sees a 2016 gross margin of 9.5% to 11.5% and a net loss of $125 million to $175 million. In May, it had forecast a gross margin of 13% to 15% and net income of break-even to as much as $50 million.

“The magnitude of the guide down was surprising,” said Michael Morosi, an analyst at Avondale Partners LLC by e-mail. “It is increasingly apparent that margins are coming in on the low end.”

For 2017, SunPower expects to report a net loss of $100 million to $200 million. It also estimates earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $300 million to $400 million. Ben Kallo, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co, told company executives on a conference call that he was “blindsided” by the update.

“I understand the concern,” Werner said, “but these changes materialized in the last few months.”

The second-quarter net loss was $70 million, or 51 cents a share. That compared with a profit of $6.5 million, or 4 cents, a year earlier. Excluding some items, SunPower’s loss of 22 cents compared with the 24-cent average loss of 16 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales rose to $420.5 million from $381 million.

By Brian Eckhouse

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