First Solar rival Abound could go public in 2011

By Sarah McBride

LOS ANGELES (BestGrowthStock) – Thin film solar company and First Solar Inc (FSLR.O: ) rival Abound Solar Inc is planning an initial public offering for as soon as late next year, Chief Executive Tom Tiller said in an interview.

“We have the ability to grow this company and create value in this process,” Tiller said on Thursday. “If things go well and financial markets are cooperative, as we get toward the latter part of next year, we might consider an IPO.”

Loveland, Colorado-based Abound must meet landmarks before approaching markets, he said. They include positive cashflow, which Tiller believes Abound can do by the end of 2011.

The targets also include showing that the panels can be produced in high numbers at low cost.

Abound will produce about 30 megawatts of panels this year. Far larger competitor and Wall Street darling First Solar produced 350 megawatts just last quarter.

As it builds up its Colorado plant and opens a new one in Indiana, Abound plans to reach 840 megawatts by 2013, Tiller said.

To be competitive with First Solar, whose costs generally fall each quarter, “we expect that we have to be well below a dollar per watt, in the 50-60 cent range,” Tiller said.

In the third quarter, First Solar’s cost per watt totaled 77 cents, compared to 85 cents a year earlier.

The company’s technology for depositing film on the glass that will become solar panels, loosely based on a process for coating beer cans, represents “the crown jewels of the company,” Teller said.

It is a proprietary technology with strong patent protection, Teller said, and allows Abound to keep costs low.

Abound and competitors use cadmium telluride as a key raw material, whereas traditional solar companies use polysilicon. Generally speaking, polysilicon-based panels are more efficient, but more expensive.

Canada’s 5N Plus Inc (VNP.TO: ), one of the world’s largest cadmium telluride companies, is a major supplier to Abound.

(Reporting by Sarah McBride. Editing by Nichola Groom and Robert MacMillan)

First Solar rival Abound could go public in 2011