Major solar power player SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ:SCTY) announced today that it was delaying releasing its 4Q 2013 earnings and will restate both 2012 and 2013 financial results following the discovery of an accounting error in connection with the way it calculates overhead expenses.
SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ:SCTY) shares are trading down on the news. The stock price is off $1.59 at $83.57 as of 1:24 PM ET
Error in calculating overhead costs
The company estimates that fixing the issue will increase solar-system sales cost by $16 million to $20 million for the nine months ended Sept. 30 and by $20-23 million for 2012. However, total overhead costs for the periods involved won’t change, and the company plans to file revised, complete reports by March 18th at the latest. This is actually the second delay in filing last quarter’s earnings, as 4Q earnings were originally scheduled to be released on February 24th.
SolarCity an investor’s darling
SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ:SCTY) stock has been on a huge run over the last year. The price has jumped from just $16.50 in early March of 2013 to over $82 today. That represents an over 450% annual return. The stock has, along with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA), become one of the darlings of Wall Street, and has seemed bullet-proof even during market pullbacks.
Some analysts question future earnings projections
Some analysts, such as Lakewood Capital, however, are questioning both SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ:SCTY)’s business model and the company’s and consensus analyst revenue projections. Lakewood calls SolarCity “a competitive, low return finance business” and argues that revenues are inherently limited given potential customers can just buy solar panels themselves or finance them through their mortgage.
Lakewood also points out that consensus estimates on SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ:SCTY)’s projected earnings to do not include taxes and assume that all of SCTY’s customers will pay off their entire 30-year “solar mortgage”. Both of these assumptions are highly unrealistic and result in highly inflated earnings projections. Assuming the most optimistic outlook for the company, Lakewood believes the share price of SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ:SCTY) should trade under $10.