SolarCity's Third-Quarter Sales Impress, but Earnings Don't; Shares Plummet 10% After Hours

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California-based solar energy service provider SolarCity just reported third-quarter earnings, crushing Wall Street's revenue estimates but falling short of bottom-line targets.

Analysts were looking for a non-GAAP net loss of $0.38 per share on sales around $41 million. SolarCity reported a $0.43 adjusted loss per share on nearly $49 million in total sales.

The company reported strong operating cash flows of $100 million, nearly triple the year-ago period's figure, but also invested heavily in new customer installations. Capital expenses nearly doubled to $217 million, and free cash was strongly negative.

As a reminder, SolarCity installs solar panels free to customers, recouping the cost later via long-term lease contracts -- hence the high capital expenses and the ballooning long-term contracts. Management tracks a metric known as estimated nominal contract payments remaining, which accounts for the unpaid portions of long-term lease deals. That figure stood at $500 million in 2011, $1 billion in the year-ago period, and $1.7 billion right now.

Investors ignored the strong revenues and latched on to SolarCity's weak profitability, sending shares nearly 10% lower in after-hours market action.

The earnings-related sell-off puts SolarCity prices at roughly $54 per share, which is 360% above the stock's year-ago price.

The article SolarCity's Third-Quarter Sales Impress, but Earnings Don't; Shares Plummet 10% After Hours originally appeared on

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