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First Solar reduces 2017 net loss, ups 2018 forecast

First Solar modules installed on rooftop in Osmaniye Organized Industrial Zone. Source: Zorlu Solar

February 23 (Renewables Now) - First Solar Inc (NASDAQ:FSLR), the US thin-film solar module maker whose products are exempt from the Trump Administration’s recently imposed tariffs, on Thursday revised upwards its 2018 guidance for revenue, earnings and net cash.

The company explained its decision to raise its projections with revised systems project sale timing, increased Series 4 production, the anticipated sale of its interest in joint venture yieldco 8Point3 Energy Partners LP (NASDAQ:CAFD), and other developments.

The table below shows First Solar’s previous and new forecast for 2018.

2018 GAAP Guidance
(in USD,
unless otherwise noted)
Old New
Net sales 2.3bn - 2.5bn 2.45bn - 2.65bn
Gross Margin (%) 22 - 23 21.5 - 22.5
Operating expenses 400m - 410m Unchanged
Operating income 110m - 170m 130m - 180m
Earnings per share (EPS) 1.25 - 1.75 1.50 - 1.90
Net cash balance 1.6bn - 1.8bn 2.1bn - 2.3bn
Operating cash flow 100m - 200m Unchanged
Capital expenditures 650m - 750m 700m - 800m
Shipments (GW) 2.7 - 2.8 2.9 - 3.0

For 2017, the company posted a net loss of USD 165.6 million (EUR 134.6m), a reduction from a loss of USD 416.1 million in 2016. The GAAP loss per share was USD 1.59, while the non-GAAP result was a profit of USD 2.59 a share, which is at the upper end of the company’s updated full-year forecast presented in late October.

The following table shows First Solar’s financial performance for 2017 and the fourth quarter of the year.

Figures in USD Q4 2017 Q4 2016 2017 2016
Net sales 339.2m 330.8m 2.94bn 2.9bn
Total operating expenses 97.1m 829m 371.1m 1.21bn
Operating profit (loss) (35m) (821m) 177.8m (568.1m)
Net profit (loss) (432.5m) (750.8m) (165.6m) (416.1m)
Earnings (loss) per diluted share (4.14) (7.22) (1.59) (4.05)
Non-GAAP earnings (loss) per diluted share (0.25) N/A 2.59 N/A

In 2017, First Solar registered net bookings of 7.7 GW in direct current (DC), which is a record for the company, it said. CEO Mark Widmar called this a tremendous commercial success.

So far this year, First Solar has booked 1.3 GW DC.

"We enter 2018 with an unwavering focus on profitably, scaling our modules business, executing on our systems project portfolio, and delivering on our financial commitments," Widmar added.

(USD 1.0 = EUR 0.813)

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