SunPower is all about being a stellar provider of solar. The company makes solar panels and systems under the SunPower, SunTile, and PowerGuard brands, among others. It sells these products to dealers, distributors, and system integrators for use by residential, commercial, government, and utility customers around the world. SunPower generates more than 50% its sales from large-scale solar projects (solar farms for utility companies to offer alternative energy) and a third from solar products and projects for residential and small commercial customers. The company has offices across the globe; the Americas account for the majority of the company's sales. SunPower is majority owned by France's TOTAL SA.
French energy giant TOTAL bought a controlling stake in SunPower for about $1.4 billion in 2011 to boost its presence in the renewable energy sector. SunPower benefited from access to cash and credit (the deal included a $1 billion line of credit) that allows it to accelerate plans to expand solar panel production and develop large-scale solar farms. TOTAL has since increased its stake from 60% to 66%. (As part of the deal, SunPower acquired TOTAL subsidiary Tenesol SA, a solar provider based in France for $164.5 million in cash.)
California-based SunPower generated about two-thirds of its sales from the Americas (primarily the US) in 2013. Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) accounts for about 18% of revenue, while the Asia-Pacific region accounts for the remainder.
The company has offices in Australia, England, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Africa, Spain, and the US. Outside the US, it has projects in Chile, Germany, and South Africa.
SunPower is a vertically integrated manufacturer, operating joint ventures to involve itself along all steps of the supply chain. Its joint venture Woongjin Energy in South Korea melts polysilicon into crystalline ingots. The ingots are sliced into wafers by its joint venture with First Philec Solar Corporation in the Philippines. The wafers are then processed into solar cells and panels at two manufacturing plants in the Philippines and by its joint venture with AU Optronics in Malaysia. Other panel sub-assembly capabilities are handled by third-party contract manufacturers in China, Mexico, and Poland.
The company owns the California Valley Solar Ranch (CVSR) located in San Luis Obispo Country. CVSR is one of the world's largest solar power plants at 250 MWac and powers the equivalent of approximately 100,000 homes.
Sales and Marketing
The company' large-scale solar products and systems are sold through its own direct sales force; solar equipment for residential and commercial customers is also sold directly, as well as through a network of some 1,800 dealers. SunPower has sales personnel and dealers in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the US.
SunPower's two largest customers are MidAmerican Energy Holdings and NRG Solar, Inc., which accounted for about 25% and 17% of its 2013 sales, respectively.
SunPower has experienced solid revenue growth over the past decade as the demand for renewable energy increases across the globe and governments encourage solar projects. In 2013 the company reported sales of $2.5 billion, up 4% versus 2012, on an increase in components sales and timing of revenue recognition on certain large-scale solar power systems involving real estate. Significant growth in revenue (up 64% year over year) in the Asia-Pacific region -- driven primarily by Japan -- offset declines in the Americas and EMEA. The company reported net income of $95.6 million in 2013, following two years of unprofitability. Cash flow from operations moved in tandem with net income, as both are up sharply since 2011.
SunPower is looking to grow in North America, particularly in the sunny Southwest. Its assembly plant in California opened in 2011, operated as a joint venture with contract manufacturer Flextronics. The US plant produces 75 MW per year of solar panels for rooftops and power plants. It also announced plans to build another plant in Mexico. In addition, SunPower expanded an operations center in Austin, Texas, with about $3.5 million in incentives from the state and local governments. Key emerging markets for the company include Japan, the Middle East, China, South Africa, and Chile.
In 2014 SunPower partnered with Internet search-giant Google to provide financing and support for approximately $250 million ($150 million provided by SunPower and the rest by Google) in residential solar power leases. Thousands of homeowners are expected to avail themselves of financing through the program.
In a move to cut costs, the company has introduced several restructuring measures over the last couple of years. It reduced its workforce in both 2011 and 2012 and in late 2012 streamlined manufacturing operations in the Philippines.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In November 2013 SunPower acquired California-based Greenbotics, a supplier of panel cleaning products and services for large-scale solar power plants. The purchase expanded SunPower's energy services portfolio.