Shadow on solar stocks signals investment opportunity

If you are looking for some speculative stock investments, you should investigate US solar energy companies.

That is the advice of Martin E. Enowitz, president of Energy Investment Research Inc., an investment adviser. Mr. Enowitz is also editor of Sundex, a newsletter devoted to the business and investment potential of solar energy.

Solar stocks in general have ''taken a beating in the last two years,'' despite the fact that a number of companies have shown impressive growth and profitability in an adverse economic and political climate, Mr. Enowitz reports.

As a result, it is possible to pick up some real bargains, and the investor who holds on to these stocks for two to three years is likely to realize an impressive return, he maintains.

Solar stock prices are in the cellar for a number of reasons. Investors had some bad experiences with them back in the early '70s when solar issues were hot. Then, of course, solar companies have been hurt by the collapse of the housing industry, high interest rates, and what they regard as an unfriendly administration. In the grip of the ''oil glut mentality,'' investors are acting on the questionable assumption that oil prices and supplies have stabilized permanently.

In addition, a great deal of solar's image problem is due to the news media, which have been quick to pounce on bad news but slow to report favorable developments such as the entry of General Motors and Sears, Roebuck & Co., Mr. Enowitz says.

According to Solar Age magazine, the Harrison Radiator Division of GM introduced a domestic solar water heater last October. Sears, also last year, brought a solar pool heating system and domestic hot water heater to the market. The magazine says Sears sees solar water heating as one of the most promising areas in solar development.

While the emphasis on solar's failures has caused problems for the industry, it has also created some good investment opportunities, he says.

This conclusion is based on a survey of 40 publicly held solar companies he recently made. The companies were divided into two categories: pure solar companies, with more than 75 percent of sales derived from solar; and hybrid companies, which have a smaller but still significant portion of total sales derived from solar.

Of the pure companies, 72 percent have registered sales gains over past years. Among the hybrids, 90 percent reported growth in sales. ''Even more important than sales growth is profit growth. Among companies in the 'pure' category, 41 percent registered bottom-line percentage gains,'' Mr. Enowitz reports. ''What makes solar's improving profit picture all the more significant is that it outshines other, more established industries . . . ,'' he continues.

The investment adviser is also bullish on solar's future. If the leading companies are doing so well in the midst of recession, he anticipates ''explosive growth'' as the economy improves. He also believes the oil glut will disappear as quickly as it started, and oil prices will resume their upward climb in the near future. Also, he expects the political climate, as it effects solar, will improve as the 1984 elections draw nearer.

But Mr. Enowitz warns potential investors that solar stocks remain a high-risk proposition. One particular joker in the solar investment deck is the approaching 1985 deadline on the federal solar tax credits. These credits play a pivotal role in all solar equipment marketing efforts, and no one is certain of the extent to which withdrawal of these credits will harm the industry. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that there is a growing movement in Congress to extend or gradually phase out the tax credits rather than end them abruptly.

A more complete summary of Mr. Enowitz's survey is published in the June issue of Solar Age magazine. Or you can write to Energy Investment Research Inc. , PO Box 73, Glenville Station, Greenwich, Conn. 06830.

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