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First Solar (FSLR) Tops Earnings, Revenue Miss Hurts Stock

First Solar Inc. FSLR reported first-quarter 2016 earnings of $1.66 a share, sweeping away the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 91 cents by 82.4%. The reported number was also a reversal from the prior-year loss of 61 cents per share, reflecting higher sales, gross profits, operating income and lower expenses.

In a separate release, the company announced that its CFO, Mark Widmar, will be appointed CEO, effective Jul 1.

Revenues

First Solar’s revenues in the quarter increased 80.8% year over year to $848.5 million. The growth is primarily attributed to higher revenues from the Desert Stateline project.

Shares of First Solar traded down 3.11% after-hours following its earnings release as it sharply missed its top-line expectation. The reported revenue fell short of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $962 million by 13.4%.

Operational Highlights

Gross profit in the reported quarter was $262.9 million, up substantially from $39 million a year ago.

Total operating expenses declined 10.5% to $97.7 million, largely due to lower selling, general, and administrative expenses, research and development expenses along with the absence of production start-up costs during the first quarter of 2016.

Operating income was $165.3 million, as against an operating loss of $70.1 million in the year-ago quarter.

Financial Performance

First Solar had $1,086.3 million of cash and cash equivalents as of Mar 31, 2016, down from $1,126.8 million at year-end 2015. Long-term debt was $205.3 million at the end of the first quarter compared with $251.3 million as of Dec 31, 2015.

2016 Guidance

First Solar reaffirmed its revenue guidance for 2016 in the band of $3.8–$4 billion. However, it raised the gross margin estimate to 18–19% (from 17–18%) and operating income guidance to $300–$370 million (earlier $260–$330 million). The company also increased its operating cash flow guidance to $500–$700 million from $400–$600 million expected earlier.

The company reiterated its panel shipment projection at 2.9−3.0 GW for 2016.

Full-year earnings are now expected in the band of $4.10−$4.50 per share ($4.00–$450 earlier).

8point3 Energy Partners LP Result

8point3 Energy Partners LP CAFD, a limited partnership  formed by First Solar and SunPower Corp. SPWR, reported earnings of 27 cents per share in the first quarter of fiscal 2016 (ending Feb 29, 2016), while the Zacks Consensus Estimate was a loss of 13 cents per share. The partnership swung into profit with a net income of $5.3 million in the reported quarter from a net loss incurred in the year-ago period.

Upcoming Peer Releases

SunPower Corp. is slated to report first-quarter 2016 earnings on May 5, 2016.

SolarCity Corp. SCTY is expected to release its first quarter numbers on May 9.

Zacks Rank

First Solar presently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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FIRST SOLAR INC (FSLR): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
SOLARCITY CORP (SCTY): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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