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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Will Google (GOOG) take a bite of First Solar (FSLR)?

First Solar has long been touted as the Google of the photovoltaic solar energy industry. Their pioneering thin film PV solar power technology solution is produced faster and cheaper than most competitors, and sales have grown exponentially. It makes sense now for Google to acquire 5 to 10% of FSLR. Why?

Let me count the ways!

1. What's the point of having a massive cash hoard if you can't pick up some clever pieces when there's a fire sale on? The stock is down over 60% in the Bush crash but will be a primary beneficiary of the Obama reign. 10% of First Solar might go for about US$1 billion, as the current market cap is nine and change.

2. With 17bil in cash and prospects for exponential growth dimmed by widespread financial weakness, utilizing investor capital for strategic equity alliances in high growth situations may be a great antidote. Sure Google will be THE NUMBER ONE beneficiary of a global economic upturn that has all boats rising, but when will that day or month come? Even when it does, the sheer size of GOOG means that it will face similar problems that Microsoft has faced for years, and that is trying to maintain reasonably steady growth while managing expectations, in a mega cap reality. Looking at FSLR, ORA, Suzlon, Vesta etc would make perfect sense for Google.

3. Time to leapfrog the charity and make some real money! It's all fine and dandy that wants to save the world with its crucial and pioneering work. Still, it befuddled that promising clean energy investments seemed to be owned by the foundation, and it hasn't been clear to me (I haven't researched it so readers are welcome to comment) that the Google shareholders would even be rewarded in the future from this beneficence today.

Now I understand how a company can benefit from having more PHDs than NASA; GOOG saw the crash coming and didn't want to get flack from shareholders for buying into a future dream at the top. In this next phase loans, grants and investments can still come from the foundation, but with the equity portion it will be better to structure these deals as Google Inc. owning 80-90% of the new green energy equity investments, the foundation 10-20%. The non-for-proft arm, which battles global climate change, world poverty and 21st century emerging diseases. and the company will both grow faster due to the sharing of resources and pooling of capital in strategic situations.

4. Lots of high quality alternative energy companies are currently attractive to longer term investors. Here are some names a cash-rich company like Google (or even MSFT (14 bil cash), or AAPL (20+ bil cash) may want to speak with:

First Solar FSLR

Ormat Tech ORA

Vesta Wind

Suzlon Energy

MEMC Electronic Materials WFR

SunPower Corp SPWRA


Peace 2 ALL!


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