LDK Solar (NYSE: LDK) hit another record low of $19.82 per share Monday after closing below its IPO price of $27 per share every day last week.
The stock rebounded to $21.50 per share by the close of trading Monday, but that’s a 72 percent drop from September’s peak of $76.75.
Monday’s share price was a 3.5 percent drop from LDK’s previous record low of $22.27, which it hit on June 12, less than two weeks after its May 31 initial public offering.
Even in the two-month slump after LDK faced allegations of inventory discrepancies from its financial controller, Charley Situ, the share prices only slipped below its IPO price once, on Nov. 27, when the shares hit a low of $26.15.
Why are investors more bearish now than they were then, even after an independent audit in December found "no material discrepancies" (see Inventory Concerns Keep Haunting LDK and Independent LDK Audit Finds ’No Material Errors’)?
First of all, analysts apparently remain suspicious about the company’s accounting practices.
The recent share-price fall began March 3, when Goldman Sachs analyst Cheryl Tang lowered her price target from $33 per share to $28 per share, even though she kept a Neutral rating on the stock after upgrading it from Sell at the end of February.
The same day, Barron’s reported that LDK’s fourth-quarter balance sheet seemed to validate Situ’s claims.
CEO Xiaofeng Peng last week defended the company, explaining that it would use all the silicon it had in stock (see LDK Defends its Inventory Accounting).
But some investors were disappointed to hear the company doesn’t plan to release the independent audit report. Peng said that the auditor, not LDK, owns the report, but audits normally are owned by the company that commissions them.
Not all of the drop can be blamed on these issues, however.
Solar shares have been falling overall based on concerns that a recession could be coming and that U.S. renewable-energy incentives might not get renewed.
SunPower fell 6.5 percent to close at $56.11 per share, for example, and Canadian Solar fell 15 percent Monday to close at $17.41 per share.
A Washington Post article about Chinese solar-silicon companies dumping toxic waste also likely didn’t help. The story focused on Luoyang Zhounggui, which sells silicon to LDK, Suntech Power and Canadian Solar, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Jesse Pichel.
In a research note, Pichel said the article could have "negative repercussions" that could lead to additional supply risk for these customers and "exacerbate anti-Chinese sentiment for Chinese solar products."
The WilderHill Clean Energy Index, which tracks U.S. clean-energy stocks, fell 2.3 percent to close at 201.79 points Friday and then 4.25 percent to close at 193.21 points Monday.
At LDK, investor reactions have varied, and message boards have been ringing with opinions on both sides.
On a Google investor message board, one commenter posting as "taxstar" said an inventory report would be needed to clear LDK and said he or she would short the stock. "What the hell is wrong with these people????" the writer said.
Another comment posted from "davylw" argued that LDK "has done its best."
"They asked for a third company for auditing inventory," "davylw" wrote. "What do you want a company to do?"
Meanwhile, one writer posting a message titled "Im depressed … I really am" as "greasytrades" on a Yahoo message board said he or she was shocked by the downturn.
"I thought I did a thorough risk analysis," "greasytrades" posted. "I thought they were at their bottom and I was wrong. I’m looking for a ledge to sit on and think about jumping off."
Another writer posting as mom_pop401k responded with encouragement: "When your grand children ask how you found the courage to head off cataclysmic climate change, tell them you were one of the first investors in LDK solar."
In a conversation with Greentech Media, Hakan Telenius, organizer of an LDK investor group, said he believes much of the company’s problem comes down to the need for better relations with analysts and the public.
While Telenius is satisfied that LDK is being upfront about its inventory accounting, he added that a perceived "evasiveness" is discounting the stock.
"The core problem here is one of communication," he said. "LDK needs to work harder with the analysts, spend more time and explain everything."
Telenius also posted a comment on the Google message board saying the share price won’t go back up until LDK can convince the Street that it is fairly reporting its inventory, has enough cash to carry out its planned expansion and will be able to produce enough silicon next year to meet its expected revenues.
"How to do it all?" he asked. "Improve communications; provide clear answers to questions that can be answered and equally clear answers as to why other questions cannot and will not be answered."