8point3 Energy Partners Keeps Beating Expectations Despite Uncertain Future

Bad weather in California over the winter didn't stop 8point3 Energy Partners (NASDAQ: CAFD) from posting another quarter that beat the expectations it laid out for investors three months ago. And with the best two quarters for solar insolation on the horizon, there's good reason to expect it to deliver an impressive second half of the year.

But the focus when it comes to 8point3 Energy's shares is still on what First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR) and SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR) will do following their strategic review of the yieldco. And that left more questions than answers during the quarterly earnings call.

The numbers

Fiscal second-quarter results easily topped guidance, which is really the bar 8point3 Energy Partners' results should be compared to, so I'll lay out the numbers and guidance.

It's not shocking that 8point3 Energy Partners beat expectations because guidance is based on a 90% probability of how much energy (and therefore revenue) will be produced from solar projects. But it's another data point that shows this is a yieldco that has a great foundation of cash flows, even if everything else about its future is up in the air.

Where is 8point3 Energy Partners' future? 

We know that the yieldco's assets are performing well, which will help keep the dividend growing 3% per quarter in 2017. Beyond that, the image in the crystal ball is very murky.

During Q2, the company gave up the right of the first offer for First Solar's 280 MW California Flats and 40 MW Cuyama projects. And it didn't utilize its option to raise $125 million through an "at-the-market" equity offering.

As a result, management didn't sound like it would be in the market to buy more projects in 2017 while the review of its future was underway. That hesitation may be smart if a buyer is ready to step into First Solar's shoes or buy the yieldco outright, but if a deal doesn't happen, it could make it hard to grow the dividend in 2018.

What we do know about the future

We did get guidance for the fiscal third quarter and management reiterated full-year guidance. This quarter's revenue is expected to be between $25 million and $26 million, with net income of $21 million to $24 million, and CAFD of $28 million to $30 million. Full-year CAFD guidance was reiterated at $91.5 million to $101 million.

As I mentioned above, management issues guidance that's based on a 90% probability of hitting its targets. Odds are therefore high that 8point3 Energy Partners will exceed expectations and have extra cash that it can use to pay down debt or even buy small projects. But until we know what First Solar and SunPower have in mind for this yieldco, the outlook beyond 2017 is murky. Deciding the company's fate would be a good move for everyone involved.

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Travis Hoium owns shares of 8point3 Energy Partners, First Solar, and SunPower. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.