UPDATE 2-SolarCity to install fewer panels in first quarter

Mon Feb 24, 2014 6:31pm EST

Related Topics

* Fourth-quarter revenue up 87 pct at $47.3 mln

* Delays reporting full fourth-quarter results

* To install 78-82 MW in the 1st quarter vs 103 MW in 4th quarter

* Backs full-year solar installation target

* Shares down 5 pct in extended trading (Adds details on outlook, funding, and management change from conference call, updates shares)

By Swetha Gopinath

Feb 24 (Reuters) - SolarCity Corp, the largest residential solar installer in the United States, said it expects to install fewer panels in a seasonally weak first quarter due to cold weather.

The company, backed by Tesla Motors Inc founder Elon Musk, also delayed reporting its complete fourth-quarter results, sending its shares down 5 percent in extended trading.

SolarCity said it expects to install 78 megawatts (MW) to 82 MW of solar panels in the current quarter, compared with a record high 103 MW installed in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31.

"Almost like clockwork, SolarCity tends to sell off after reporting just about every quarter, and it looks like the same is true this time, especially with the slightly embarrassing delay in reporting full financials," Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov said in an e-mail.

The company's stock has far outstripped that of other U.S. solar companies so far this year, rising by roughly a third through Monday's close of $78.55. The stock slipped to $74.50 in extended trading.

SolarCity on Monday backed its full-year installation target and said it had record bookings in January, which would translate to increases in residential installations in the second quarter.

SolarCity has become a hit with Wall Street, with its stock soaring almost ten fold since its debut in December 2012, due to a business model that allows homeowners to make monthly payments over 20 years, instead of a hefty payment upfront.

Moreover, the San Mateo, California-based company, which counts Google Inc and U.S. Bancorp as investors, has come up with innovative financing schemes.

Late last year, SolarCity said it would sell bonds backed by its contracts for solar power systems and followed that up last month by announcing plans to launch a web platform later this year to offer debt investments, backed mainly by residential solar projects.

The company, valued at $7.15 billion as of Monday's close, said on Monday that it was aiming to raise as much as $200 million in the first half of this year by issuing contract-backed bonds.

DELAYED RESULTS

SolarCity, which was due to report full fourth-quarter results on Monday, said it would release its complete financial results on March 3, citing accounting-related delays due to its recent acquisitions as well as a change in overhead allocations owing to a rise in the volume of megawatts deployed.

The company said in August it would buy Paramount Energy Solutions LLC to increase its customer base, and said in October it would buy Zep Solar, a maker of mounting systems for residential solar panels.

SolarCity's so-called retained value forecast -- the value of payments once debts are paid, maintenance costs are covered, and contracts are discounted -- rose to $1.05 billion during the fourth quarter from $846 million during the third quarter.

The retained value forecast, or value of its contracts, is considered more important than revenue or net income for the company given its heavy reliance on such long-term contracts.

At the end of the fourth quarter, SolarCity had nearly $2 billion of contracted payments remaining, up 15 percent from the third quarter.

SolarCity estimated that its revenue grew 87 percent to $47.3 million in the fourth quarter, which was ahead of analysts' average estimate of $43.07 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Operating lease revenue rose 59 percent to $22.4 million, but Molchanov said it was slightly below his estimate of $24 million.

SolarCity also backed its full-year installation target of 475 MW to 525 MW.

Peter Rive, who co-founded SolarCity with his brother Lyndon and was the company's chief operating officer, said on a conference call with analysts that he would focus exclusively on his chief technology officer role.

Tanguy Serra, executive vice president of operations, had been promoted to chief operating officer, Rive said. (Reporting by Swetha Gopinath in Bangalore; Editing by Savio D'Souza)

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