8 December 2017
First Solar forecasts full-year 2018 net sales of $2.3-2.5bn
During its 2017 Analyst Day at its Series 6 factory in Perrysburg, Ohio, First Solar Inc of Tempe, AZ, USA – which makes cadmium telluride (CdTe)-based thin-film photovoltaic modules as well as providing engineering, procurement & construction (EPC) services – said that, for full-year 2018, it is forecasting net sales of $2.3-2.5bn (down from 2017’s expected $3-3.1bn), with solar power systems comprising 75-80% of the total and third-party module sales the remainder. Shipments should amount to capacity of 2.7-2.8GW (up slightly from 2017’s expected 2.6-2.7GW).
First Solar expects gross margin of 22-23% (up from 2017’s forecasted 17-18%) and operating expenses of $400-410m (up from 2017’s forecasted $370-385m), including respectively about $60m of production ramp costs and $110m of production start-up expenses associated with the deployment of Series 6 module capacity in 2018.
Operating income should be $110-170m (down from 2017’s expected $165-190m). Also including projected restructuring-related charges of about $10m, earnings per share (EPS) are hence forecasted to be $1.25-1.75 (down from 2017’s expected $2.05-2.30).
Operating cash flow is forecasted to be $100-200m (down from 2017’s expected $850-950m). After capital expenditure of $650-750m, the 2018 ending net cash balance (cash and marketable securities minus expected debt) is projected to be $1.6-1.8bn, with the expected decrease from end-2017 resulting from the higher projected capital expenditure in 2018 (up from 2017’s expected $400-500m) to support the Series 6 production ramp. As a result of ongoing improvements, CapEx for a brownfield Series 6 factory is now expected to be about $0.25 per watt.