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Guest Klothilde

First Solar (FSLR)

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16 minutes ago, Luz del Norte said:

Once again, you are arguing in bad faith. First Solar predicted gross margins of 20-21% on its guidance call last year. This included $20-30M in ramp costs. Last quarter the company predicted the annual margin to be 19-20% with $70-$80M to be from ramp costs. Take the ramp costs out and margin guidance has gone up.

LOL -  Why did ramp costs Triple?

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23 minutes ago, Luz del Norte said:

When you say the company has Opex and Interest of $440M it is clear you are not arguing in good faith. First Solar expects to have Opex of $320-$370M this year which includes $40-$50 in startup expenses and EPC overhead. As for interest, the only debt the company has is for foreign projects and that is more than offset by the income of the cash position. If the company has debt then it also has systems revenue you are intentionally ignoring.

Make up your mind as to what starup expenses you are using is it $20-$30M, $40-$50M or $70-$80M. As for my $440M what do you see expenses at next year when they are running a U.S. factory at full bore as well as several oversees factories and still ramping capacity?

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59 minutes ago, SCSolar said:

LOL -  Why did ramp costs Triple?

The company planned on spending $120M on startup (OPEX) and ramp (COGS) expenses. The original plan was for $95M startup and $25M ramp. When the factories went into production earlier than expected this changed to $45M startup and $75M ramp. OPEX is not used for gross margin calculations so this shift cause the GM to drop.

54 minutes ago, SCSolar said:

As for my $440M what do you see expenses at next year when they are running a U.S. factory at full bore as well as several oversees factories and still ramping capacity?

Most of the factory costs will be considered a cost of goods sold and so will have little impact on OPEX. From the 10Q, "In addition, our cost of sales includes direct labor for the manufacturing of solar modules and manufacturing overhead, ...depreciation of manufacturing plant and equipment, facility-related expenses, environmental health and safety costs, and costs associated with shipping, warranties, and solar module collection and recycling (excluding accretion). "

First Solar differs from the c-Si companies because it considers shipping, warranty and recycling a COGS rather than an operating expense.

Edited by Luz del Norte

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13 hours ago, SCSolar said:

I will use a Klothilde script. Thin film solar panels have an average price of $0.237. How profitable will FSLR be selling 5GW with $0.03 profit? That is $150M a year. Where do they get the rest to cover their $440M in Opex and Interest?

 

Oh wait they are in a protected market  unless the courts overturn the Bifacial module exemption reversal. If that happens, that protected market is gone and the $0.39 ASP they enjoy in the U.S. will quickly be negotiated down.

My script doesn't apply here because in our CSIQ discussion I was estimating likely numbers for 2020 based on my experience of the industry and what I know of the company and current market condition.  Based on that I see margins of 15% or below for their module business in 2020.

Your script on the other hand is a purely fictional "what if" exercise to show where GP would fall if FSLR's ASP was 24 cts next year.  Fun but fictional.

Don't really know what you want to accomplish with that.  FSLR would be in serious trouble in this fictional scenario.  That's a no brainer and an old hat.  It may scare people who know nothing about FSLR and who are not able to realize that an ASP of 24 cts in 2020 is fictional.  FSLR will have to compete without tariffs at global market prices one day, but that will be at a different efficiency and cost point relative to where they are right now.

I value your opinion a lot, but if you want to pick my brain and influence my opinion  you have to go beyond fuzzy fiction and get quantitative.  A key question you could help address would be the likely impact of reinstating the bifacial exception on the 2020 / 21 EPS of the company taking into account all moving parts, i.e. a.o. how fast the necessary cell lines in southeast asia will be ramped, how fast shipments to the U.S. will ramp, by when a critical volume of XGW of shipments will be reached to impact pricing significantly, what fraction of customers are likely to renegotiate, what fraction of contracts will be rescinded with penalty payments, how fast production cost will fall to counteract some of the possible ASP decline, etc. etc.  I personally think it will take many quarters for the string of prerequisites to materialize to have a significant impact on EPS.  For starters current cell capacities in SE asia are very limited and players will be hesitant to invest their scarce money to add new lines and adjust the current lines given the volatility of the tariff decisions.

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47 minutes ago, Klothilde said:

Your script on the other hand is a purely fictional "what if" exercise to show where GP would fall if FSLR's ASP was 24 cts next year.  Fun but fictional.

 

My comment was not purely fictional but is a near term risk assessment based on factual process going on.

 

It is  based on  near term legal wranglings in the U.S. courts today for the protected market that FSLR is completely dependent on.

 

https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/court-temporarily-halts-withdrawal-of-bifacial-exclusion 

 

FSLR has acknowledged that Bifacial modules has some advantages in certain market segments vs their products. These  market segments are in fact First solar core market of Commercial Rooftop and Ground mount.

 

There was a recent court ruling staying the  revocation of the exemption for Bifacial modules.  A court stay, generally suggests that there may be merit to the lawsuit. The Trump administration has a habit of taking actions with little science behind the reason. That is why they are loosing many fights in court.  Precedence was set by allowing Bifacial modules into the U.S. tariff exempt.. Reversing that requires justifications built on data.  If the courts rule that the reversal of the exemption was not based on any hard data  then it may overturn the tariff. If that happens  then that opens up FSLR protected market to price collapse next year as most Bifacial products will flood into the U.S. wiping out  the $0.34 pricing that FSLR seems to imply they have. 

 

You/I  also do not know what is being negotiated as far as a trade deal with  U.S. China. China could be demanding a removal of all tariffs including solar tariffs as part of that. We just do not know that as of now(speculation). Trust me Trump wants a trade deal he can claim victory on for the election coming up. That means something will happen by April/May if not sooner. If(specualtion) that includes removal of solar tariffs, watch out.

 

FSLR is fine saying they have contracts, but if customers see a significant market shift of up to 15% in their cost to build they will be asking FSLR for price adjustments that may actually be written into the contracts. Just ask LDK how well take or pay contracts worked.

 

Those are the risks that I am basing my comments on. They are real and in the courts today as well as being negotiated in trade deals. Whether that impacts 2020 is yet to be seen but the comments of mine was with respect to the 11.4GW of contracts suggested through 2021 and into 2022.

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22 minutes ago, Klothilde said:

OK so for CSIQ you see $2-$4 in EPS next year.  What do you see for FSLR with and without bifacial tariff?

Greatly appreciated. 

 

 

2020 - FSLR with tariffs in place $3.3

2020 - Bifacial exemption lifted - $3.3

Impacts on earnings come 2021 if bifacial is removed $2 in EPS

Impacts on earnings come 2021 if solar tariffs are removed $3 in EPS. 

 

As I have noted, the impact is over 3 years. An immediate removal will not cause an immediate impact. It's impact would be gradual over the next 2 years. 

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3 hours ago, SCSolar said:

As I have noted, the impact is over 3 years. An immediate removal will not cause an immediate impact. It's impact would be gradual over the next 2 years. 

This timeline is true for the impact on the business.  The question is, what would be the impact on the stock price?  Given historical precedent, any such announcement will have an immediate, possibly dramatically negative effect.  That is the ultimate risk to an investor.

Now again if history is any indicator, any such selloff may turn out to be overdone, and offer a good ENTRY point into the stock.  But that would be at a significantly lower price than today.  So for now, there is a good argument to be made to stay on the sidelines with FSLR until we get a clearer picture of what their future will actually be.

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9 minutes ago, solarpete said:

This timeline is true for the impact on the business.  The question is, what would be the impact on the stock price?  Given historical precedent, any such announcement will have an immediate, possibly dramatically negative effect.  That is the ultimate risk to an investor.

Now again if history is any indicator, any such selloff may turn out to be overdone, and offer a good ENTRY point into the stock.  But that would be at a significantly lower price than today.  So for now, there is a good argument to be made to stay on the sidelines with FSLR until we get a clearer picture of what their future will actually be.

If the exemption is removed the drop will be minimal short term. If the tariffs are removed, the stock could drop 50% in a week or 2. Pure speculation but looking at them with $1  to $1.50 a share in earnings in 2021/2022 and a PE of 20, you have a $20-$30 price range. That would be the near term downside risk. That is much more than the upside  to $80 a share in stock.

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4 hours ago, SCSolar said:

...you have a $20-$30 price range...

They will have around $23/share in net cash at the end of 2020 with your numbers.  How do we account for that.  Or is the company worth only its net cash balance and the rest (technology/ops) is worthless?

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57 minutes ago, Klothilde said:

They will have around $23/share in net cash at the end of 2020 with your numbers.  How do we account for that.  Or is the company worth only its net cash balance and the rest (technology/ops) is worthless?

Net cash right now is $16 a share. I doubt I forcast them making $7 a share. They actually had a negative cash of $500M in Q3  and a  net negative cash of $300M+. With more manufacturing ramps, more cash burn.

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4 minutes ago, SCSolar said:

Net cash right now is $16 a share. I doubt I forcast them making $7 a share. They actually had a negative cash of $500M in Q3  and a  net negative cash of $300M+. With more manufacturing ramps, more cash burn.

The company has over $1B in project assets. When these sell the revenue will add to the net cash position, whether as cash or by removing debt from the books. In addition, the $2B spent on factories is starting to depreciate, leading to a rather sizable positive cash flow boost.

After this quarter FSLR has only around $100M left to spend on building the factories. Cash flow will grow significantly over the next two years.

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1 hour ago, SCSolar said:

Net cash right now is $16 a share. I doubt I forcast them making $7 a share. They actually had a negative cash of $500M in Q3  and a  net negative cash of $300M+. With more manufacturing ramps, more cash burn.

They have big qoq cash swings because of the project nature of the business, specifically in Q3 they spent a lot of cash on the build out of the SCE projects which they plan to get paid for in Q4.  End of year net cash guidance is 1.7-1.9BN:
https://s2.q4cdn.com/646275317/files/doc_financials/2019/q3/Q3-2019-Earnings-Call-Presentation-FINAL.pdf

But I figure you know all that already 😉

1800M + 350M (2020 earnings) + 250M depreciation = 2400M = $23/share

A fair valuation at the end of 2020 imho would require adding the above net cash to whatever valuation you assume from earnings.  You may deduct some to account for capex but you would have to raise your valuation of operations by at least the same amount assuming they only expand capacity at positive NPV. Also whatever is left of project assets end of 2020 needs to be added assuming this monetizes 1:1 as cash at 0 margin.

As you can see it's not as simple as coming up with an EPS figure and slapping a PE of X on it.  This is also the reason why FSLR has been trading at relatively high valuations relative to peers, the market values the net cash on balance sheet.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Klothilde said:

Looks like I was right on FSLR heading down bankruptcy lane.  They started with the first round of layoffs.  Hate to say "I told you so" but you guys just wouldn't listen to me.
https://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/news/2019/11/13/first-solar-lays-off-valley-employees-after.html

I thought you were long this stock?

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JinkoSolar’s ‘Tiger’ module can generate up to 460Wp of power output

https://www.pv-tech.org/products/jinkosolars-tiger-module-can-generate-up-to-460wp-of-power-output

Where is S6 in this picture? That's right - lost in transition.... :-))))) S7 is already too late. S8 will be next savior? Right? Wait another 2 years for transition from S6 to S8 with negative ESP on the way to promised land...

I think FSLR investors have to jump ship ASAP, since we see here the beginning of SunEdison story....

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3 hours ago, Klothilde said:

Q4 will be juicy y'all...

EDP Renewables, ConnectGen Complete Acquisition of Three First Solar Projects
https://investor.firstsolar.com/news/press-release-details/2019/EDP-Renewables-ConnectGen-Complete-Acquisition-of-Three-First-Solar-Projects/default.aspx

Considering the need to have $2B in revenues to reach upper end of mid range guidance, they need to sell a bunch more projects that that one. They need  22% gross margins and 15% net margins to reach mid range EPS. Talks about lumpy, I would not be surprised if a project misses the quarter and pushes to 2020

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Well they already warned that they would come in below guidance if their Japanese project sales get pushed into 2020 and so far it looks like that.  Anal cyst Q4 consensus of $2.6 also shows a push-out into 2020 is pretty much anticipated.

"...Let's say, the comment given was around, if we do not sell those Japan assets, we could see coming in $0.50 below the low end of the range of guidance..."
https://seekingalpha.com/article/4298952-first-solar-inc-fslr-ceo-mark-widmar-on-q3-2019-results-earnings-call-transcript?part=single

That said $2.6 or something around that is still quite juicy to me compared to the peanuts we're getting from the CNs.

 

 

 

 

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11 hours ago, Klothilde said:

compared to the peanuts we're getting from the CNs.

Except those "peanuts" have been beating the crap out of FSLR for several quarters now--and those peanuts are growing.

But hey, there's always next quarter....

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4 hours ago, Klothilde said:

First busting all the common myths about bifacial and proving it's crap:
http://www.firstsolar.com/en/Resources/Bifacial

LOL this is  not good for FSLR and smacks of desperation as it is not well thought out or presented.

 

We have FSLR acknowledging that they have  the potential negative impacts due to bifacial  modules. They are now going on the attack to try and defend their modules and bifacial by throwing a bunch of unsubstantiated un validated  SUGGESTIONS that has zero quantitative analyis as to how it financially impacts the projects and the ROI. 

 

This wreaks of a company trying to react to what is now clearly impacting their business significantly.

 

What I see is a bunch of fodder being thrown out because FSLR is being impacted significantly by BiFacial Modules. They have acknowledged that they are at a competitive disadvantage against BiFacial modules in some market(i.e. their primary market of Ground mount systems). They also have acknowledge that Sales have been impacted by BiFacial modules when the tariffs were repealed ont he BiFacial modules.

 

BOS- yep points are accurate but note they do not really address how much an impact it is. Those are also not myths but known facts. Bunch of Fodder

 

Vegetation - What there is no  myth there. Mst everyones documentation inlcude differing terrain for reflectivity. No direct relationship as to how much less or more this adds to the costs. All Fodder

 

Nameplate wattage - I have never read any article that states you can take the wattage to the bank. In fact most of the modules do not advertise as a bifacial wattage rather as a monofacial wattage then suggest additive gains based on albeido of differing terrains where installed. Again no myth all fodder.

 

Tilt Angle - yes optimal angles could be changed to optimize front and back gains combined. However for now, the Optimal angle is used for the panel wattage as a mono facing and you get added data from the reflectivity. There is no added land required then, but there could be so that more light reached the ground.  But then again, FSLR panels are 20% larger and require 10-20% more land than monofacial and will produce less power. Again fodder as a more learned optimal angles will just produce even more additive power than current name plate and FSLR modules are even worse today for land use and spacing than current Mono facial. Again No financial impacts or detriments identified just a suggestions.

 

Snow - How is that a Bifacial issue? It is infact a Mono issue as well as a bifacial issue. They are suggesting that snow on the ground must be on the top which we know the heat generated will actually melt the snow. Now if you really want to argue this, Snow required cold weather. The CsI performs at it's optimal in cold weather and all the 7% gain in Power that FSLR throws out due to better heat performance is gone as well. This is the worst fodder of them all.

 

Yield -  That is right bifacial power estimates are not as accurate as monofacial. But the monofacial spec that is the nameplate being quoted for these panels only has additive power generation on top of the monofacial. 

 

This is all really really bad news from FSLR and supports the worst fears presented on the impacts of BiFacial on their business.

 

It is a poor attempt at marketing to try to dampen the impact on First Solars modules as they recognize they are a competitive disadvantage and their entire business is at risk since the company requires that $0.10 per watt gross or more that you have been throwing out as needed to get the $1 a share in EPS per quarter to support their stock price.

 

I would be seriously worried investing in FSLR that the only reason to invest is because the high margins generated from a single protected market that is 80%+ of their business and likely closer to 95% of their Gross income.

 

 

 

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I think you are overdramatizing a little bit.

Now that I think about it you may be right in that the FSLR site is not conclusive proof that bifacial is crap.  Nevertheless I think it does a good job in spreading fear and doubts about bifacial, and that is at least something.

I'm kind of relaxed because there's no imminent thread to FSLR's fundamentals based on the current law framework and industry set-up.  For the U.S. market to be flooded with bifacial modules overnight you would need to set up massive bifacial cell and module capacities in southeast asia and that won't happen fast for several reasons.

Also S6 is already highly competitive as we speak and the First team is just getting started in lowering cost and increasing efficiency.  

Let's see what FSLR has to report in terms of new bookings during the next ER. That would be an early warning sign I'm more interested in hearing about than the constant doomsday yakking I've been exposed to since the days of the CN11.  Fast forward to today and we're down to CN2 and First is shining bright like a star.

Happy christmas y'all.

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2 hours ago, Klothilde said:

I think you are overdramatizing a little bit.

Now that I think about it you may be right in that the FSLR site is not conclusive proof that bifacial is crap.  Nevertheless I think it does a good job in spreading fear and doubts about bifacial, and that is at least something.

I'm kind of relaxed because there's no imminent thread to FSLR's fundamentals based on the current law framework and industry set-up.  For the U.S. market to be flooded with bifacial modules overnight you would need to set up massive bifacial cell and module capacities in southeast asia and that won't happen fast for several reasons.

Also S6 is already highly competitive as we speak and the First team is just getting started in lowering cost and increasing efficiency.  

Let's see what FSLR has to report in terms of new bookings during the next ER. That would be an early warning sign I'm more interested in hearing about than the constant doomsday yakking I've been exposed to since the days of the CN11.  Fast forward to today and we're down to CN2 and First is shining bright like a star.

Happy christmas y'all.

I don't think I am over dramatizing. They are in a protected market for now but that should change in the next 6 to 8 months.

 

FSLR felt the need to get fodder out in the public for their sales people to have a story to pitch. They only do this if there is a real threat to their business and there is. This is to counter a trend that is leading customers to look seriously at Bifacial modules as the best way to do ground mount systems. First Solar in their court briefs indicated that when the tariff was placed on hold, some customer negotiations suddenly stopped as companies started to re-evaluate the S6 modules vs other technology. That is not nor has it ever been a good scenario if you are hap hazzardly trying to find ways to suggest what you are selling against is not as good as they say. This takes away your sales  pitch of why your products are better.

 

The U.S. market is at it's peak right now as the ITC step down is creating a rush to contracts. It is not going to be growing in the market segment that First Solar relies on.  This means FSLR must rely on the unprotected foreign markets if they want to grow. That is currently minimal at 1GW or so of their shipments.

 

I believe there is a real good possibility that the  tariffs from Trump are removed in the next 6 months. He needs a win and something to stimulate the markets. That time frame will coincide with the ramping of Bifacial modules to 20GW+ with most of that targeted for the U.S. markets initially. That will be enough capacity to saturate the US commercial and ground mount systems.

That next 6-12 months  will also line up with data being collected to support bifacials current marketing of added power. That  data  is likely to show that their power generation has substantiated extra power generation which will show the world FSLR counter arguments is a lie. That is never good showing that you do not speak truths.

 

So for now through 2020 FSLR earnings forecast is likely fairly safe. The issue is that the contracts for 2021 and beyond. To quote your constant arguments against he CN how profitable will they be when they are making 20% or less margins on a $0.25 or less ASP? Right now you run numbers based on gross of nearly $600-$800M. Those as you say look Juicy. In 2021 those Juicy numbers fall to $300M or less. That is not "juicy" at all and suggest being profitless or worse yet losing money. The worst part about that would be there is Zero chance of the recovery from those numbers as they are optimistic numbers and are going to be FSLR new norm. Where that is the current Norm for the Csi manufacturers for the last 2 years.

 

FSLR had a large cost advantage in manufacturing for years. That gave them the chance to under sell the CN companies and make lots of fat profits. That advantage is gone. They will then be in the same boat or worse as the CN as far as operational metrics. That impacts FSLR far more negatively than the CN as FSLR stock price is triple the CN. That $70 share stock price targets will not hold up when numbers for 2021 and beyond look more like breaken +/-.  With little chance  for recovery.

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20 hours ago, SCSolar said:

The U.S. market is at it's peak right now as the ITC step down is creating a rush to contracts. It is not going to be growing in the market segment that First Solar relies on.  This means FSLR must rely on the unprotected foreign markets if they want to grow. That is currently minimal at 1GW or so of their shipments.

Any evidence to support your peak claim? SEIA/WM are forecasting robust growth into 2020 and 2021 in the utility segment:
https://www.seia.org/research-resources/solar-market-insight-report-2019-q4

 

20 hours ago, SCSolar said:

So for now through 2020 FSLR earnings forecast is likely fairly safe. The issue is that the contracts for 2021 and beyond. To quote your constant arguments against he CN how profitable will they be when they are making 20% or less margins on a $0.25 or less ASP? Right now you run numbers based on gross of nearly $600-$800M. Those as you say look Juicy. In 2021 those Juicy numbers fall to $300M or less. That is not "juicy" at all and suggest being profitless or worse yet losing money. The worst part about that would be there is Zero chance of the recovery from those numbers as they are optimistic numbers and are going to be FSLR new norm. Where that is the current Norm for the Csi manufacturers for the last 2 years.

2021 is fairly safe as well.  During the last con call they claimed being sold out through Q2 2021 and being booked 2/3 for the whole of 2021.  They also claimed incremental bookings ASP to be in line with the backlog average (34 cts) which suggests good pricing for 2021.  That coupled with the potential cost reduction of 4+ quarters starting at a baseline of 21 cts for S6 at the beginning of 2019 makes it likely 2021 earnings will even surpass 2020 under the current tariff framework imo.

I think your suggestion of $300m gross is somewhat far-fetched and hinges on radical assumptions that are highly unlikely in combination.  For one you assume total abolition of tariffs (including Obama/201/301), total renegotiation of 2021 module contract volumes to spot rates, and little if any cost reduction relative to the current level of 21 cts for S6.  All unlikely and even highly unlikely in combination imho.

Imo even if tariffs get abolished in 2020 and even if that leads to significant contract renegotiations it will take at least until 2022 for the quarterly ASPs to converge fully with global market prices.  Until then the company has plenty of time to drive cost way below their current competitive level.

Compare that privileged situation with the CNs who are selling at 23cts and 15% GM as we speak.  That puts the difference between the CNs and FSLR to the point:  The CNs are for sure in trouble right now whereas FSLR may possibly be in trouble in two years.  Big difference in probability and timing!

20 hours ago, SCSolar said:

...That impacts FSLR far more negatively than the CN as FSLR stock price is triple the CN. That $70 share stock price targets will not hold up when numbers for 2021 and beyond look more like breaken +/-.  With little chance  for recovery.

Apart from your far-fetched assumptions discussed above you repeatedly ignore the impact of FSLR's net cash on its valuation.

Currently FSLR trades at an EV of $47 per share and CSIQ at $45 per share.  That points to a similar market valuation of the companies for their operations and a divergence of the share price based purely on their different cash & debt positions.  If the cash/debt situation were inverted, i.e. if CSIQ were sitting on the mountain of cash FSLR is sitting on, and if FSLR were sitting on the mountain of debt CSIQ is sitting on, then CSIQ's share price would be roughly double that of FSLR.

The above seems quite basic to me so I don't really buy you're not getting it.

 

 

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3 hours ago, Klothilde said:

Any evidence to support your peak claim? SEIA/WM are forecasting robust growth into 2020 and 2021 in the utility segment:
https://www.seia.org/research-resources/solar-market-insight-report-2019-q4

 

 

 

 

Yes chart 3.5 shows peak is in the 2020/2021 which is starting right now.  that fully booked of 2020 will be your "Juicy" period.  Then like always poof it will be gone. The ground mount is flat for 2020 /2021.

 

The fact that over half of 2021 is not locked in and there would mean the ASP is going to fall and fall fast.  They are now bidding against U.S. manufacturing, unlimited tariff free modules from Sun Power and currently tariff free Bifacial modules. 

 

So enjoy the Juicy for now, all things juicy though start to ferment and rot.

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On 12/24/2019 at 4:16 AM, Klothilde said:

the constant doomsday yakking I've been exposed to

Now THAT's rich, coming from you!!

Well, at least you have a sense of humor....

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On 12/25/2019 at 3:19 AM, Klothilde said:

The CNs are for sure in trouble right now whereas FSLR may possibly be in trouble in two years

 

On 12/25/2019 at 3:19 AM, Klothilde said:

If the cash/debt situation were inverted, i.e. if CSIQ were sitting on the mountain of cash FSLR is sitting on, and if FSLR were sitting on the mountain of debt CSIQ is sitting on, then CSIQ's share price would be roughly double that of FSLR.

So which is it??  Are the CNs executing better or worse than FSLR, concentrating on just current operations and disregarding any debt?  Can't be both at once....

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