February 14, 2018 / 10:09 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 2-SunPower tops estimates on healthy demand for solar panels

(Adds CEO quotes, information from conference call)

Feb 14 (Reuters) - SunPower Corp, the No. 2 U.S. solar panel maker, on Wednesday reported better-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue, adding it would take measures to mitigate the blow from tariffs placed on imported solar panels by the Trump administration.

San Jose, California-based SunPower, which manufactures its solar modules mainly in the Philippines, Malaysia and Mexico, is seeking an exemption from the import tariffs President Donald Trump imposed on imported solar panels in January.

"Unfortunately, we are already seeing a negative near-term impact from the ruling as the increased cost due to import tariffs have delayed certain 2018 projects and made other projects uneconomical," Chief Executive Thomas Werner said in a conference call.

SunPower is considering significant cost saving initiatives to lower its overall expense structure, Werner added.

President Donald Trump's decision to impose tariffs on cheap imported panels was intended to protect American manufacturing jobs, but many in the solar industry have argued that tariffs will raise costs and trigger thousands of layoffs at the installation end of the industry.

The company said it also plans to expand its internal international businesses, including its distributed generation business.

The company posted an adjusted revenue of $824 million, beating analysts' estimate of $791.29 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Excluding items, the company earned 25 cents per share in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, beating analysts' estimate of 11 cents.

The beat was driven a healthy demand for solar modules in 2017 as the federal tax credit for solar installations was extended by the Congress.

However, it will take time for companies to rebuild their project pipelines.

The company had reported total operating expenses rise 2.7 times in the quarter, largely due to a non-cash charge of $624 million related to its residential leases.

In the fourth quarter, the company's net loss attributable to shareholders widened to $568.68 million, or $4.07 per share, from $275.12 million, or $1.99 per share, a year earlier.

SunPower, majority owned by French energy giant Total SA , said revenue fell 35.8 percent to $658.1 million.

The company's shares were up about 1.4 percent in after-market trading. (Reporting by Taenaz Shakir in Bengaluru; editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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