Solar and Renewable Electricity Gain (Week Ending 5/9)

Author: Mark Henwood

Broad market indices (Emerging Markets, EAFA, S&P500) all fell this week. Camino’s PurePlay™ indices were mixed, commodities (ticker DJP) rose strongly.

The PurePlay™ Solar index, comprised of 34 companies, reversed last week’s 2.0% loss with a 0.9% gain. The index members were mixed with 13 stocks increasing and 21 stocks declining. In contrast to last week, two stocks (ENER and CSIQ) increased by over 20%. Energy Conversion Devices’ eye popping 45.2% gain for the week was largely responsible for lifting the index. The company stock rose sharply in very heavy trading after its 7 AM press release on the 8th, and then more after their earnings call concluded later in the morning. The company reported great results for its Q3 with solar product sales up 193% from the previous year. In contrast to prior periods the company showed a profit. More on ENER below.

The Renewable Electricity index increased 0.7% with 11 stocks climbing and 12 retreating. No stock increased or declined by over 20% and nothing caught our attention to report here other then to note that the index’s relatively low volatility continues.

Biofuels followed last week’s loss with an additional 3.4% loss. There were 5 advancing stocks to 10 stocks falling. Biofuels are now down 35.2% for the year, the worst showing of our four strategies.

Aventine (AVR) reversed last week’s gain with a 23.0% decline contributing significantly to the index’s decline. I previously noted Aventine’s large USD 26 million mark-down for its student loan ARS position and noted the company is engaged in other complex financial transactions to hedge operational risk. The company’s value decreased this week by USD 52 million, not because of operational risks, but due to an analyst’s concern about liquidity on the 5th and Moody’s concerns and negative outlook on the 8th. Is there more financial risk to come?

Fuel Cells posted another loss of 1.1% this week with 3 stocks advancing and 4 stocks declining. No stock increased or declined by over 20%.

Energy Conversion: After its big price move, annualizing the company’s Q3 earnings results in a current period PE ratio of 68.

The question is can the company continue the growth necessary to support this price? To grow at the PE ratio, the company will need to expand its Q3 2008 production of 21.6 MW to a Q3 2010 production 61 MW. With its announced plans to increase annual production capacity to 300MW by the end of FY2010 it looks like it may be possible to keep pace. But there isn’t much room for error. Any problems that impact this rapid growth with likely be rewarded with sharp price movements. In our view the stock may be fully priced after this week’s huge gains.

Mark is the founder of Camino Energy, an information provider specializing in globally traded sustainable energy stocks. He also is an investor in sustainable energy stocks.