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7 May 2013

First Solar reports Q1 sales up 52% year-on-year to a more-than-expected $755m

For first-quarter 2013, 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 $755m (slightly above the guidance of $650-750m). This is down 30% on $1.07bn last quarter (due mainly to less revenue recognition from systems business projects related primarily to the Topaz project) but up 52% on $497m a year ago (due mainly to higher sales volumes for third-party module sales and an increase in revenue from systems projects).

Fiscal Q1/2012 Q2/2012 Q3/2012 Q4/2012 Q1/2013
Revenue $497m $957m $839m $1075m $755m

R&D expenses have fallen further, from $36.1m a year ago and $31.6m last quarter to $29.9m. Selling, general and administrative (SG&A) expenses have risen from $63.4m last quarter to $74.5m, but that is still down on $91.8m a year ago.

With module conversion efficiency having risen from 12.4% a year ago to 12.9%, the core module manufacturing cost per watt produced has fallen from $0.70/W to $0.64/W.

On a non-GAAP basis (excluding restructuring charges etc), net income was $61.5m ($0.69 per fully diluted share, slightly below the expected $0.70-0.90). This is down from $180.4m ($2.04 per fully diluted share) last quarter, but still much better than the net loss of $6.7m ($0.08 per fully diluted share) a year ago.

Operating cash flow was $66.5m, down on $327.6m last quarter but much better than $16.1m cash burn a year ago. Capital expenditure has risen from $40m last quarter to $71.7m, but that is still less than the $124.5m a year ago (and less than the expected $80-100m). Free cash flow is hence $19.7m, down from $253.3m last quarter but a big improvement on -$211.8m a year ago. Cash and marketable securities remained steady during the quarter at about $1bn, but this is up $262m on $750m a year ago.

“We demonstrated progress on several fronts during the first quarter, including continued strengthening of our balance sheet and additions to our pipeline,” says CEO Jim Hughes. “We remain on track for the year and reaffirm our full-year 2013 financial guidance [as issued during the firm’s 2013 Analyst Day event on 9 April] and are focused on achieving our goal of new bookings to shipments ratio of one-to-one,” he adds (albeit with earnings more heavily weighted in second-half 2013 due to an expected push-out in revenue recognition for the Desert Sunlight project).

For full-year 2013, First Solar expects production of 1.5-1.7GW, shipments of 1.4GW(DC) in systems and 200-400MW(DC) in modules, average module efficiency of 13.1%, and core module manufacturing cost per watt of $0.61/W (average over the year, but just $0.58/W at the end of the year).

Hence, First Solar expects net sales of $3.8-4.0bn, gross margin of 20-22%, operating expenses of $380-400m, earnings per share of $4.00-4.50, operating cash flow of $0.8-1.0bn, and capital expenditure of $350-400m.

See related items:

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

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

Tags: First Solar Thin-film photovoltaic CdTe


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