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Analysts Not Happy With SolarCity Corp’s Shifting Strategies

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SolarCity pulled back its installation estimate for the third time in seven months and declared a loan program for residential solar customers. Considering this, Ben Kallo, an analyst at Robert Baird & Co., asked the question, “What is SolarCity?” The changes in revised forecasts and strategy have frustrated analysts as they are unable to keep pace.

SolarCity “too complicated” for Wall Street

On Monday after SolarCity released its first-quarter results, Kallo said Wall Street thinks the company is way “too complicated.” Such a tag is surprising for a company which became the most popular U.S. rooftop installer by pursuing growth at any cost and offering leases.

On Monday, SolarCity said it expects to install about 1 gigawatt of panels, which is around 15% more than last year. Then in February, the California-based company predicted around 40% growth. The solar firm declared a strategic shift in October and reduced its 2015 installation guidance in an effort to become cash flow positive by end of the year. Andrew Bischof, an analyst at Morningstar, told Bloomberg that the “market discounts constantly changing targets.”

SolarCity began its life as a solar installer which put panels on rooftops. Later it picked up on the money-leasing model. The company scrapped a home-lending service that confused customers in the first quarter. Last week, the U.S.-based solar company started offering another financing service which includes a simple loan that runs for 10-30 years.

Aims to become cash flow positive

During the earnings call, Chief Executive Officer Lyndon Rive said the business model is to provide energy at a lower cost than one currently gets from fossil fuels. There are several products that customers want. Some prefer leases, while others prefer power-purchase agreements. They have also seen an increasing demand from customers who want to own their equipment, Rive said.

SolarCity is making efforts to become cash flow positive, and its strategic shifts are an important part of it. Since its initial public offering in December 2012, the U.S.-based solar company has lost money in all but three quarters as it used the money for more installations.  In the first quarter, the company installed 214 megawatts of panels, exceeding its February prediction of 180 megawatts.

For the first quarter, the solar firm posted a loss of $25 million or 25 cents a share, compared to a loss of $21.5 million or 22 cents a share last year. Sales rose from $67.5 million to $123 million. The loss was $2.56 a share excluding some items, and this figure is more than the $2.31 average of 17 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

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Aman Jain
Personal Finance Writer

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