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26 February 2014

First Solar's sales fall 28% year-on-year to $768m in Q4

First Solar Inc of Tempe, AZ, USA - which makes thin-film photovoltaic modules based on cadmium telluride (CdTe) as well as providing engineering, procurement & construction (EPC) services - has reported full-year net sales of $3.309bn for 2013, down 1.8% from 2012’s $3.369bn, and below the guidance of $3.4-3.6bn (which had been lowered last November from the prior guidance of $3.6-3.8bn).

Fiscal Q4/2012 Q1/2013 Q2/2013 Q3/2013 Q4/2013
Revenue $1075m $755m $520m $1266m $768m

For fourth-quarter 2013, net sales were $768m, down 28.5% on $1075m a year ago and 39% on $1266m last quarter, due mainly to lower systems business project revenues (as initial revenue recognition for the Desert Sunlight and sale of the ABW projects in Ontario, Canada, were both achieved in Q3/2013).

Impacted by pre-tax restructuring and asset impairment charges of $24.9m (related mainly to an additional write-down, due to a change in marketing strategy, in the value of the firm’s idle Vietnam facility), GAAP net income was $65.3m ($0.64 per fully diluted share), down from $195m ($1.94 per fully diluted share) last quarter and $154m ($1.74 per fully diluted share) a year ago. Full-year GAAP net income has improved from a loss of $96m ($1.11 per fully diluted share) in 2012 to a profit of $353m ($3.70 per fully diluted share) for 2013, even after including the impact of pre-tax charges of $86.9m related to restructuring activities, the sale of the facility in Mesa, AZ, USA, and the write-down of the Vietnam facility. However, this is below the earnings per share guidance of $4.25-4.50 (which had been raised last November from the prior guidance of $3.75-4.25).

Excluding the impact of the restructuring and asset impairment charges, non-GAAP net income was $90.3m ($0.89 per fully diluted share) for Q4/2013, down from $229.3m ($2.28 per fully diluted share) last quarter and $180.4m ($2.04 per fully diluted share) a year ago. Full-year non-GAAP net income has fallen from $430m ($4.90 per fully diluted share) in 2012 to $415.6m ($4.35 per fully diluted share) for 2013.

Operating cash flow was $192m in Q4/2013, down from $375.1m last quarter and $328m a year ago. Full-year operating cash flow was $856m (within the guidance of $0.7-0.9bn, which had been lowered last November from the prior guidance of $0.8-1.0bn). During the quarter, cash and marketable securities rose by $232m from $1.53bn to $1.76bn. Net cash grew from $1.3bn to $1.5bn.

“The fourth quarter and full-year 2013 shows our company’s continued progress in achieving the strategic objectives we outlined during our Analyst Day event in April,” notes CEO Jim Hughes. “For the year completed we delivered on several key objectives, including additional bookings of approximately 1.7GWDC, significant reductions to our module manufacturing cost, and a strong financial performance,” he adds. “As we move into 2014, the company remains focused on continuing to achieve our strategic objectives.”

Over the past year, First Solar has achieved several milestones, including:

  • setting a record for CdTe cell efficiency of 20.4% (after the firm set a record of 18.7% just a year ago).
  • reducing the average module manufacturing costs on its best plant by 17% from $0.64 per watt in Q4/2012 to $0.53 per watt in Q4/2013 (excluding under-utilization and upgrades).
  • Raising cumulative production from 7GWDC at the end of 2012 to more than 8GWDC at the end of 2013 (enough to provide electricity for about 4 million homes and displace 5.2 million metric tons of CO2 nnually);
  • adding 1.7GWDC of new projects to the project pipeline.
  • acquiring TetraSun of San Jose, CA, USA (has developed a proprietary monocrystalline silicon solar cell architecture capable of conversion efficiencies exceeding 21%) to expand addressable market opportunity; and
  • completing its first utility-scale project in the Middle East and the largest operating solar PV plant in the region.

For first-quarter 2014, First Solar expects net sales to rebound to $800-900m, earnings per fully diluted share (EPS) of $0.50-0.60, and cash used in operating activities of $300-400m.

See related items:

First Solar raises CdTe solar cell efficiency record to 20.4%, matching multi-crystalline silicon record

First Solar’s sales fall 31% to $520m in Q2

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

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

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

First Solar postpones Vietnam factory commissioning

Tags: First Solar Thin-film photovoltaic CdTe

Visit: www.firstsolar.com

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