Is Ascent Solar Rising or Falling?

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Another solar company released earnings, and again the results weren't impressive. But this time they were mind-bogglingly bad.

Ascent Solar (NAS: ASTI) reported second-quarter earnings yesterday and the losses keep on mounting. Revenue was just $1.0 million (yes, you read that correctly, $1 million), and the company lost $85.2 million, or $2.63 per share, nearly three times the company's market cap. Even when you back out an impairment loss, the company lost $7.2 million.

So by the look of it, Ascent Solar has to be heading the way of Evergreen Solar, who filed for bankruptcy yesterday, right? Not so fast.

TFG Radiant Group of China came in to save the company yesterday by signing a royalty and strategic partnership agreement. Ascent will immediately get a $7.36 million cash infusion by selling shares to TFG Radiant and will gain some long-term stability.

A $165 million commitment to build an East Asia FAB is part of the deal. There don't seem to be a lot of downsides for Ascent in the deal, but it is a bit of a head-scratcher for TFG Radiant. Ascent's technology is cool but it has yet to catch on, and competitors are improving efficiency and costs every quarter. This is a long game of catch-up.

Beware of the "story"
Buying into a stock in a growing sector like solar is easy to do. You look at Ascent's website and see thin, flexible films that could be installed almost anywhere—oh, the possibilities. But remember that customers were only willing to buy $1 million of Ascent's "innovative solution."

Right now I put Ascent and Energy Conversion Devices in the same boat. They have cool technology, and I hope they make it, but I'd rather call a coin flip than bet either of them will survive.

I am sticking to leading manufacturers like First Solar (NAS: FSLR) and SunPower (NAS: SPWRA) , who have proven they can make solar panels profitably. Even LDK Solar (NYS: LDK) and JA Solar (NAS: JASO) , two of the higher-risk Chinese manufacturers, provide more stability then Ascent Solar.

Beware getting excited about anything at Ascent Solar these days. The company is still behind competitors in a lot of respects and has yet to prove it can sell product on a large scale. Not a horse I'd like to hitch my wagon to.

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At the time this article was published Fool contributor Travis Hoium owns shares of SunPower and First Solar, and has sold put options in SunPower. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of First Solar. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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