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1 March 2013

First Solar’s sales grow 22% to $3.4bn for 2012

For 2012, First Solar Inc of Tempe, AZ, USA – which manufactures thin-film photovoltaic modules based on cadmium telluride (CdTe) as well as providing engineering, procurement & construction (EPC) services – has reported net sales of $3.4bn, up 22% on 2011’s $2.8m, but below the guidance (given in early November) of $3.5-3.8bn.

Fiscal Q4/2011 Q1/2012 Q2/2012 Q3/2012 Q4/2012
Revenue $660m $497m $957m $839m $1075m

Fourth-quarter 2012 sales were a record $1.07bn, up 62% on $660m a year ago and up 28% on $839m last quarter, due mainly to increased revenue recognition for the 550MWAC Topaz Solar Farms project (which began construction in late 2011) and an increase in third-party module sales.

On a non-GAAP basis (excluding $26.2m of restructuring charges), net income has more than doubled from $87.9m ($1.00 per fully diluted share) last quarter to $180.4m ($2.04 per fully diluted share) for Q4, above the $110m ($1.26 per fully diluted share) a year ago. However, for full-year 2012, net income was $430m ($4.90 per fully diluted share), down from $523.6m ($6.01 per fully diluted share) for 2011 (although above the guidance of $4.40-4.70 per fully diluted share given last November).

Operating cash flow was $328m in Q4 (below the forecast $650-850m). During the quarter, cash and marketable securities rose from $717m to $1bn.

“Despite a very challenging market environment, we continued to make meaningful progress in all critical value drivers for the company,” notes CEO Jim Hughes. “We exceeded our module and balance-of-systems cost reduction targets for 2012, as announced in December 2011, further increased module efficiency and field performance, and achieved several key objectives in our strategy to develop and service new sustainable energy markets,” he adds.

First Solar says it achieved several milestones over the past year:

  • acquired Solar Chile and established subsidiaries in India, the Middle East, South Africa and Thailand;
  • set new record for CdTe cell efficiency at 18.7%;
  • increased average module efficiency to 12.9% for Q4/2012, up 0.7 percentage points from Q4/2011;
  • reduced average module manufacturing costs on its best lines to $0.64 per watt (excluding underutilization), down from $0.69 in Q4/2011;
  • surpassed 250MWAC of grid-connected power at Agua Caliente (making it the world's largest operational solar power plant); and
  • surpassed 7GWDC of cumulative production (enough to provide clean electricity for about 3.5 million homes and displace 4.7 million metric tons of CO2annually).

For first-quarter 2013, First Solar expects sales to fall to $650-750m. The firm also expects operating expenditure (OpEx) of $90-100m, operating income of $70-100m, and earnings per fully diluted share (EPS) of just $0.70-0.90. Operating cash flow should fall to $0-100m. Capital expenditure (CapEx) is expected to be $80-100m.

“We expect the market will remain turbulent for some time to come, but we have seen some evidence of improvement and believe we have the right strategy in place to retain our industry leadership by providing the best value for our customers,” says Hughes.

See related items:

First Solar reports Q3 sales down 12% to $839m

First Solar sales almost double to $957m in Q2 as projects reach revenue recognition

First Solar’s revenue falls 25% in Q1 to $497m

First Solar’s sales fall 34% in Q4/2011, limiting full-year growth to 8%

Tags: First Solar Thin-film photovoltaic CdTe


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