SunPower to sell 8point3 stake, forecast disappoints; shares slide

(Reuters) - SunPower Corp SPWR.O on Tuesday posted a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss, citing strong demand for its solar panels and projects, but its stock slid more than 11 percent in extended trade after the U.S. solar company failed to raise its outlook for the year.

SunPower also announced that it would sell its stake in the 8point3 Energy Partners LP CAFD.O yieldco, following the lead of its partner in the venture, rival First Solar FSLR.O.

SunPower stock slid to $10.07 in extended trading after closing at $11.39 on the Nasdaq. As of Tuesday’s close, the stock had nearly doubled since March when it hit a 52-week low of $5.84.

SunPower’s move to shed its stake in 8point3 comes nearly four months after the San Jose-based company said it was considering a replacement partner for First Solar, which at the same time announced it was looking to sell its stake.

But SunPower said potential buyers were interested in buying the whole company and not just First Solar’s piece.

“The feedback from the market overwhelmingly was to buy out SunPower and First Solar, or buy out the whole company and not replace First Solar,” SunPower Chief Executive Tom Werner said on a conference call with analysts.

8point3 is a publicly-traded entity formed in 2015 that houses solar projects with long-term utility contracts. Proceeds from the sale will allow SunPower to pay down debt and retire its 2018 convertible bonds. The sale will also help SunPower simplify its business and make it easier to run, Werner said.

A new, deep-pocketed buyer would benefit 8point3 by lowering its cost of capital, Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov said in an interview.

SunPower, majority-owned by French oil company Total SA TOTF.PA, has been working to cut costs and preserve cash as a global glut of solar panels has pushed down prices, harming profit margins for manufacturers and developers.

Its second-quarter net loss widened to $93.8 million, or 67 cents per share, from a net loss of $70 million, or 51 cents per share, a year ago.

Excluding one-time items, the company posted a loss of 35 cents per share, narrower than the loss of 44 cents per share Wall Street analysts had been expecting, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

For full-year 2017, SunPower expects net revenue of $1.9 billion to $2.1 billion, narrower than the prior view of $1.8 billion to $2.3 billion.

Reporting by Nichola Groom in Los Angeles; editing by Matthew Lewis and G Crosse