First Solar reduces 2012 net sales guidance; ups EPS forecast

Compared to many of its industry peers, U.S.-based First Solar has emerged from Q3 2012 relatively unscathed. Although losses were recorded both sequentially, and annually, the company seems to be making progress in the difficult market conditions.

Overall, Q3 net income amounted to US$88 million, down slightly from the $111 million reaped in Q2, and the $196.5 million seen in Q3 2011. Income before taxes for the period was also down, from $135.3 million in Q2 and $222.8 million in Q3 2011, to $110.8 million.

Q3 net sales dropped, though not significantly, from $957 million in Q2 and $1 billion in Q3 2011, to $839 million. The decrease was attributed to reduced project activity at its 290 MW Agua Caliente project, and the completion of its Silver State North project.

Finally, a Q3 net income of $1.00 per fully diluted share was recorded, compared to $1.27 in Q2 2012 and $2.25 Q3 2011.

First Solar was running at 83% capacity utilization in Q3, which is up 20% on Q2, but down 17% annually. Production for the quarter was said to be 490 MW, again up on Q2, by 33%, but down 11% on Q3 2011. Meanwhile, the cost/W for its modules is $0.67, and module efficiency is between 12.6 and 12.7%.

For the FY, the company has revised its net sales guidance back, from $3.6 billion to $3.9 billion, to $3.5 billion to $3.8 billion, and its operating cash flows from between $850 million to $950 million, to $650 million to $850 million. The changes have been made due to due to "weather-related disruptions for certain projects". Meanwhile, its non-GAAP earnings per fully diluted share have been raised from $4.20 to $4.70, to $4.40 to $4.70.

Overall, First Solar has a photovoltaic systems pipeline totaling three GW, the majority of which is located in the U.S. It also has projects in Dubai, Australia and India, however, and in Q3, opened new offices in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Thailand. Production of around 1.9 GW is expected for the FY, and average module manufacturing costs of between $0.68 and $0.70.