05 August 2011

First Solar Slumps; Can it Rise Again?

Photo courtesy First Solar
It was hard to be optimistic listening to First Solar's earnings call yesterday. 

CEO Rob Gillette sounded like a guy putting on a brave face when he talked about how the company continued to execute despite a "challenging environment" and that things would improve in the latter half of 2011. 

"It was a challenging quarter for all the PV industry," he said, trying to sound optimistic about First Solar's positioning for the second half.

Profits were $61 million compared to $159 million in the same quarter last year.  Earnings per fully diluted share were down to $0.70 compared to $1.84 a year ago; for some perspective, analysts were expecting First Solar to meet $0.92 per share. 

Sales slid during the same period: $533 million from $588 million.  First Solar actually sold more panels than the same period last year, but weak pricing due to an oversupply of solar panels and uncertainty in the German and Italian markets hit them hard.

First Solar also cut its FY11 EPS guidance from $9.25-$9.75 to $9.00-$9.50. 


The company is hoping to rebound in the second half of the year on the backs of big projects such as Aqua Caliente, a 290 MW solar farm in Arizona, and the 230 MW Antelope Solar Valley Ranch project in California.  Project development will continue to help First Solar hedge lagging sales of its solar panels, according to Gillette, and may help bolster demand for its panels. 

Management is also hoping that sales in India will help lift First Solar in the second half of the year.  Gillette reported they are also looking at expanding in China, the Middle East, Australia and Japan.

Still, there's a long shadow over First Solar, as with other solar companies right now.  Tough to see how the future looks bright.

In trading today, shares of FSLR dipped below $100 for the first time since November 2008.

(Disclosure: I hold a long position in FSLR. This post is for informational purposes only and is neither intended to be investment advice nor an offer, or the solicitation of any offer, to buy or sell any securities.)

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