First Solar Earnings Sink; Company Buys GE Solar Technology

Solar rooftop installation
Solar rooftop installation

First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) reported second quarter 2013 results after the markets closed today. The solar panel maker posted quarterly adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) were $0.39 on revenues of $519.76 million. In the second quarter of 2012, the solar panel maker reported EPS of $1.27 on revenues of $957.33 million. The Thomson Reuters estimates called for EPS of $0.52 and $721.08 million in revenue.

On a GAAP basis, First Solar posted EPS of $0.37, which included a charge of $0.02 for restructuring.

This is a miserable report for First Solar, which had been recovering nicely from it's past couple of years of trials. Year-over-year sales fell primarily as a result of an asset sale in the second quarter of 2012 and initial revenue recognition on the company's Antelope Valley Ranch project. Revenues were down $235 million sequentially, which the company attributed to lower revenues on systems business projects and lower module-only sales to third parties.

First Solar also lowered full-year revenue guidance from a range of $3.8 to $4 billion to a new range of $3.6 to $3.8 billion. Essentially that means that the company does not expect to make up the revenue shortfall in the second quarter and leads to the inevitable question of why First Solar expects to meet its past expectations given its sorry showing in the quarter.

The answer might be that the company expects gross margins to rise to a new range of 22% to 23%, but operating expenses are forecast to rise by $10 million and operating income to fall by $25 million.

The company did not complete the sale of one of its projects in the first half of the year, and now expects the sale to close in the second half. But unless the price jumps by a lot (not likely), First Solar is staring at a weak second half of the year.

First Solar also announced today that it has acquired all the intellectual property of General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) related to cadmium telluride technology (CdTe). GE acquired the technology in 2010 and built a plant in Colorado to make solar panels with the same technology that First Solar used and still uses. In exchange, GE received 1.75 million shares of First Solar's common stock and has agreed to hold onto the shares for 3 years. At today's opening share price of $48.30, First Solar paid about $84.5 million.

Shares are down about 7% in after-hours at $43.55 in a 52-week range of $18.30 to $59.00. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $43.00 before today's report.

Filed under: Energy (Business) Tagged: FSLR, GE