SunPower loss narrows, sees $55 million 2018 tariff impact

(Reuters) - U.S. solar company SunPower Corp SPWR.O reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss on Tuesday on higher demand for solar panels in its U.S. residential and commercial business.

But shares fell 3.0 percent in extended trade when the company said U.S. tariffs on solar imports would reduce a key earnings metric by $55 million this year.

SunPower is refocusing its business on so-called distributed generation (DG), or projects that generate power on-site for homes and businesses. That market is expected to increase about 40 percent over the next five years, SunPower said, compared with flat growth for power plants.

SunPower’s high-efficiency, premium panels are well-suited to the DG market, the company said, because they can generate more power in smaller spaces than rival products.

The San Jose, California-based company makes its solar products primarily in the Philippines and Mexico, and opposed the Trump administration’s 30 percent tariffs on imported panels. Last month, the company said it would buy U.S. panel maker SolarWorld Americas, expanding its domestic manufacturing to stem the impact of the tariffs.

On Tuesday, SunPower Chief Executive Tom Werner declined to disclose the purchase price, but said it was not material to the company’s financials.

SunPower will be able to expand upon the 280 jobs at SolarWorld’s Hillsboro, Oregon factory if it receives a tariff exemption on some of its solar products, Werner said in an interview. It requested an exclusion from the U.S. Trade Representative, which has not yet made a decision.

“There could be substantially more employment without a tariff,” Werner said. “There is virtually no way SunPower can expand that facility and pay tariffs.”

SunPower said it expects a net loss of $100 million to $125 million in the second quarter.

It also forecast 2018 adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization to be between $75 million and $125 million, including an estimated $55 million impact from the tariffs.

SunPower’s net loss attributable to shareholders narrowed to $115.97 million, or 83 cents per share, in the first quarter ended April 1, from a loss of $219.73 million, or $1.58 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company lost 20 cents per share. Analysts on average were expecting the company to report a loss of 32 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

SunPower is majority owned by French energy giant Total SA TOTF.PA. Shares slid to $8.18 in extended trade after closing at $8.47 on the Nasdaq.

Reporting by Nichola Groom in Los Angeles and Taenaz Shakir in Bengaluru; editing by Shounak Dasgupta