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First Solar lowers Q2 net loss, confirms 2019 sales guidance

First Solar-powered PV park in California. Author: U.S. Department of the Interior.

August 2 (Renewables Now) - US thin-film solar module maker First Solar Inc (NASDAQ:FSLR) managed to narrow its net loss in the second quarter of 2019 after the cost of sales decreased and gross profit turned positive.

First Solar booked a net loss of USD 18.5 million (EUR 16.7m), as compared to a loss of USD 48.5 million a year ago, it said on Thursday. Net sales in the three months reached USD 585 million, rising from USD 309.3 million in annual terms and from USD 532 million in the previous quarter. The sequential improvement came on the back of growing photovoltaic (PV) module and system sales, mainly in the US and Australia.

The table below gives more details about First Solar’s second-quarter (Q2) and first-half (H1) financial performance.

Figures in USD Q2 2019 Q2 2018 H1 2019 H1 2018
Net sales 585m 309.3m 1.12bn 876.6m
Cost of sales 507.8m 317.4m 1.04bn 711.8m
Gross profit (loss) 77.2m (8.1m) 77.3m 164.7m
Operating profit (loss) (8.6m) (103.6m) (85.2m) (29.4m)
Net profit (loss) (18.5m) (48.5m) (86.1m) 34.5m
Earnings (loss) per share - diluted (0.18) (0.46) (0.82) 0.32

“We continued to make significant progress in our Series 6 transition during Q2, with improvements across all manufacturing metrics,” said CEO Mark Widmar. He added that the company enjoyed record-high levels of PV module production and shipments in the three months and that with the recent order bookings it is now “essentially sold out through 2020, with significant bookings visibility into 2021.”

Year-to-date net bookings amount to 4.3 GW in direct current (DC), which means that 2 GW DC have been added since the prior earnings call.

Looking ahead, First Solar kept most of the metrics in its full-year guidance unchanged but slightly lifted its forecast for gross margin. Production ramp-up costs are now seen at USD 55 million-65 million, down from USD 70 million-80 million, previously, triggering a reduction of the operating costs outlook.

The following table shows the adjustments First Solar made to its 2019 forecast.

Figures in USD unless otherwise noted Prior Current
Net sales 3.5bn-3.7bn Unchanged
Gross margin % 18%-19% 18.5%-19.5%
Operating expenses 370m-390m 360m-380m
Operating income 260m-310m 290m-340m
Earnings per share 2.25-2.75 Unchanged
Net cash balance 1.7bn-1.9bn Unchanged
Capital expenditures 650m-750m Unchanged
Shipments 5.4 GW-5.6 GW Unchanged

Cash, restricted cash and marketable securities at the end of June totalled USD 2.1 billion, down from USD 2.3 billion in the year-ago period, mainly due to continued capital investments in Series 6 manufacturing capacity.

(USD 1.0 = EUR 0.902)

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Veselina Petrova is one of Renewables Now's most experienced green energy writers. For several years she has been keeping track of game-changing events both large and small projects and across the globe.

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