LDK Solar (NYSE: LDK) share prices closed up 5 percent Wednesday after the company said it expects to post revenue of between $960 million and $1 billion in 2008, with a gross margin of between 26 and 31 percent.
Though the company hasn't yet posted fourth-quarter earnings, the 2008 outlook is a big jump from the expected earnings of between $511.2 million and $516.2 million for the full year of 2007. But the prediction indicates the company's gross margin -- which shrank to 30.8 percent in the third quarter, down from 35.2 percent in the second quarter and 39.4 percent in the year-ago quarter -- could continue to fall.
According to the financial outlook, the company expectssolar-wafer shipments of between 510 and 530 megawatts, with polysilicon production of between 100 and 350 metric tons this year.
LDK Solar also said it expects a gross margin of between 42 and 50 percent in 2009, with wafer shipments of between 1.05 and 1.15 gigawatts and polysilicon production of between 5,000 and 7,000 metric tons.
The stock closed at $49.37 per share Wednesday, which is off 35.7 percent from a 52-week peak of $76.75 per share in September.
The company faced allegations that it had misstated its polysilicon inventory, a major factor in determining profitability during the current worldwide shortage of solar-grade silicon (see New Details Surface as LDK Stock Continues to Plunge and LDK Says Inventory Allegations Have 'No Merit').
In December, LDK announced that an independent audit found "no material errors" in its accounting, and the company posted a third-quarter profit that met analyst expectations and exceeded the company's guidance. Its profit jumped 40 percent from the second quarter and eightfold from the year-ago quarter (see LDK Profits Jump 40% and Independent LDK Audit Finds 'No Material Errors').
But analysts and shareholders were unimpressed. Citing unanswered questions, Piper Jaffray downgraded the stock to "Sell," and Lazard Capital Markets and CIBC World Markets maintained "Sell" and "Sector Underperformer" ratings (see Greentech Week: Green Rules Around the World). And shares fell 34.2 percent to $45.04 per share by Dec. 19, the end of the week of the announcement.
In a research note published at the time, Piper Jaffray analyst Jesse Pichel called the company's polysilicon-manufacturing targets "overly aggressive" and said that "uncertainties still exist" with respect to shareholder lawsuits and the company's low silicon costs.
LDK still faces a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and a class-action lawsuit but says it is confident of the independent audit's findings (see LDK Shares Rise Despite Class-Action Threat and LDK Says SEC is Inquiring into Inventory Discrepancy Allegations).