First Solar Q4 earnings more than double, ahead of red ink in Q1

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The Arizona-based company on Tuesday posted earnings per share of $3.91 in 2014 on $3.4 billion in sales, compared to $3.70 per share on approximately $3.3 billion in net sales in 2013.

First Solar shipped 1.5 GW of its cadmium-telluride-based thin-film panels in 2014 and booked 2.5 GW of supply deals for third-party and self-developed projects.

"We closed 2014 with strong execution across all fronts," said Jim Hughes, chief executive of First Solar, in a statement. "We have exceeded the earnings per share, operating cash flow and bookings targets that we set at our 2014 Analyst Day. In addition we have announced another new record cell efficiency. With our strong bookings we are well positioned as we enter 2015 and remain focused on executing to our strategy."

First Solar boosted the average sunlight-conversion efficiency of its panels by 100 basis points to 14.4% in the fourth quarter of 2014 compared to the prior-year fourth quarter. Its best lines, which operated at 14.8% in the fourth quarter, already are at 15.8% this month, said Hughes during a conference call with analysts.

The company forecast sales of $550 to $650 million in this year’s first quarter and a loss of $0.35 to $0.35 per share. First Solar attributed the declines to the late 2014 completions of the 550 MW Desert Sunlight and Topaz projects in California, which currently are the world’s largest operating solar power plants, as well as “the retention of projects on balance sheet in relation to the announced plan to pursue a joint yieldco vehicle with SunPower

First Solar declined to provide full-year financial guidance, pending full disclosure of the details of the joint venture.