Biz Break: New partnerships for SolarCity and Best Buy, Yahoo and Yelp

Posted: 03/12/2014 03:53:08 PM PDT

Updated: 03/12/2014 04:29:41 PM PDT

Today: SolarCity rockets higher on Wall Street after landing a deal to sell its residential solar systems at Promo Code, while Tesla gains after New Jersey ordered the carmaker to shut its stores. Also: Yahoo and Yelp team up to challenge Google.

The Lead: SolarCity links up with Best Buy a day after Tesla's N.J. blockade

Elon Musk seems to enjoy challenging traditional approaches to sales, a mindset that led to a losing battle with New Jersey lawmakers on Tuesday. The Tesla Motors CEO and founder's other Silicon Valley company, SolarCity, found success on Wall Street after announcing its own new approach to retail sales Wednesday, though.

SolarCity announced Wednesday that it would begin selling its residential solar-power systems in select Best Buy stores, a retail location better known for electronics and related wares, adding to its presence in a more traditional store for such a pitch, Home Depot. The move, which will put SolarCity in 60 Best Buy stores in California and four other states, continues an innovative approach to sales that led the company to offer its core solar systems for little to no money down, instead leasing the systems to homeowners after installation.

Representatives at Best Buy stores will use satellites to assess potential customers' homes and share the information within minutes, the company said, giving them a chance to increase sales with little outlay beyond paying the representative.

"The services we offer, it tends to be a conversational sale," CEO Lyndon Rive told the Los Angeles Times. "Meaning most people don't understand the value proposition until they spend two or three minutes listening to it, and the value proposition is cheaper, cleaner energy."

The companies did not say if money was exchanged in the partnership, though SolarCity announced any customer that signed up for solar service at a Best Buy before Earth Day -- April 22 -- would receive a $100 Best Buy gift card. Best Buy locations in Santa Rosa, San Rafael, Colma, Gilroy, Dublin, Brentwood, Vacaville, Milpitas and Pleasant Hill will host Bay Area locations for SolarCity.

SolarCity bounced back from recent weakness, jumping 7 percent to $78.50 and closing at its highest price of the day. The San Mateo company went public for $8 a share at the end of 2012 and his gained as much as 1,000 percent since, hitting an all-time high of $88.35 last month.

Musk serves as chairman and a principal investor of SolarCity, but spends most of his time focusing on Tesla, which bounced back from a slight dip in the wake of Tuesday's decision by New Jersey officials that will result in a ban on Tesla's direct-sale model in that state. Shares gained as much as 6 percent before closing with a 3 percent gain at $241.49 as the Palo Alto company finally brought in a new spokesman to run its communications department.

New Jersey is the third state to ban Tesla's sales model, which runs counter to the standard automotive practice of selling cars through franchised dealers, and another could soon join the Garden State, Texas and Arizona: Tesla is negotiating in an effort to stop a bill in Ohio that would effectively keep it from operating there, where it plans to open a third store.

SV150 market report: Yahoo strikes deal to add Yelp to its search results

A mixed trading day on Wall Street ended up good for Silicon Valley technology stocks, which gained 0.4 percent despite struggles for other indexes.

Yahoo and Yelp joined SolarCity and Best Buy in announcing a partnership Wednesday, a tie-up that had been reported earlier this year but was made official Wednesday. The move is an attempt by CEO Marissa Mayer to make Yahoo's search engine more relevant in a battle against two tech giants, Google and Microsoft. Searches for local businesses will return Yelp reviews, ratings and information, giving Yahoo a search feature it doesn't share with its partner, Microsoft, which operates its own Bing search engine. Google prompted an antitrust complaint from Yelp after scraping its information and placing it in search results, which led to the Mountai n View company's purchase of Zagat and production of its own local information, which it uses in search and Maps. Yahoo dropped 0.2 percent to $37.50 while Yelp gained 3.1 percent to $92.79.

Google's search engine faces an unexpected side effect from the global encryption campaign prompted by NSA surveillance, with the Washington Post reporting that Google's encryption will block Chinese censorship, which could lead to the search engine being blocked from mainland China altogether. Google stock gained 0.6 percent to $1,207.30 as the company's venture capital arm announced an $85 million investment in San Francisco startup Credit Karma. After success on Tuesday amid a bevy of reports, Apple gained another 0.1 percent to $536.61 Wednesday while facing accusations of using caustic chemicals in producing the iPhone and reducing the amount of time a buyer has to return the Cupertino company's ubiquitous smartphone. Facebook gained 1.1 percent to $70.88 a day after its Menlo Park headquarters was evacuated due to a threat, with reports suggesting that the NSA mimicked the company's servers to siphon information. Silicon Valley had another market debut Wednesday, when South San Francisco's Achaogen gained 19.2 percent after selling 6 million initial shares at $12 apiece , continuing a strong run for biotechs.

Up: SolarCity, Pandora, Yelp, Tesla, VMware, Zynga, Applied Materials, Workday, AMD, Facebook, NetApp, Cisco, Twitter, Adobe, Salesforce, SunPower, LinkedIn, eBay, Google, Electronic Arts

Down: Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Intuit, Netflix, Yahoo, Gilead

The SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies: Up 5.78, or 0.37 percent, to 1,567.86

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 16.15, or 0.37 percent, to 4,323.33

The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Down 11.17, or 0.07 percent, to 16,340.08

And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Up 0.57, or 0.03 percent, to 1,868.2

Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at

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