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What's in Store for First Solar (FSLR) in Q1 Earnings?

First Solar, Inc. FSLR is set to report first-quarter 2016 earnings results after the closing bell on Apr 27, 2016. Last quarter, the company delivered a negative earnings surprise of 100.00%. Let's see how things are shaping up for this announcement.

Why a Likely Positive Surprise?

Our proven model shows that First Solar is likely to beat earnings estimates this quarter. A stock needs to have both a positive Earnings ESP and a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), 2 (Buy) or 3 (Hold) for this to happen. First Solar has the right combination of the two key components.

Zacks ESP: First Solar currently has an Earnings ESP of +14.94%. This is because the Most Accurate estimate stands at $1.00, while the Zacks Consensus Estimate is pegged at 87 cents.

Zacks Rank: First Solar carries a Zacks Rank #3. Note that stocks with a Zacks Rank #1, 2 or 3 have a significantly higher chance of beating earnings estimates. Conversely, the Sell-rated stocks (Rank #4 and 5) should never be considered going into an earnings announcement.

First Solar’s Zacks Rank #3 and ESP of +14.94% make us reasonably confident of an earnings beat.

What's Driving Better-than-Expected Earnings?

During the fourth quarter earnings call, the company revealed that net sales and earnings per share are expected to be approximately 40% in the first half of 2016 and 60% in the second. However, the timing of project sales could alter this expectation.

The company also reaffirmed 2016 earnings in the $4.00−$4.50 per share band.

It had lowered its revenue guidance for the year to $3.8–$4.0 billion from $3.9–$4.1 billion projected earlier to reflect project shifts to 2017. First Solar also narrowed the gross margin estimate to 17–18% from 16–18%, while keeping its operating income outlook at $260–$330 million. First Solar lowered its expectations for operating cash flow to $400–$600 million from $500–$700 million estimated earlier.

Despite the weak outlook, First Solar exited 2015 with record booking. Its pipeline outside the U.S. appears robust with nearly 75% of its mid-to-late stage opportunities coming from abroad. Also, the ITC extension will help the company to reap further benefits given its major exposure in North America, providing U.S. projects with healthy margins.

Like other solar majors, SunPower Corp. SPWR and Vivint Solar Inc. VSLR, the booming U.S. solar market is expected to drive top-line growth at First Solar. The company’s new conversion efficiency record provides considerable room for cost control.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for first-quarter revenue is $952 million while First Solar reported revenues of about $469 million in the year-ago quarter. This reflects almost a 103% increase on a year-over-year basis.

Again, the company reported a loss of 62 cents per share in the year-ago quarter, whereas first quarter 2016 earnings estimate is pegged at 87 cents per share.

A Stock that Warrants a Look

Like First Solar we see a likely earnings beat coming from this industry peer.

Canadian Solar Inc. CSIQ has an earnings ESP of +42.86% and a Zacks Rank #3. The company is expected to report first-quarter 2016 results on May 5.

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FIRST SOLAR INC (FSLR): Free Stock Analysis Report
VIVINT SOLAR (VSLR): Free Stock Analysis Report
CANADIAN SOLAR (CSIQ): Free Stock Analysis Report
SUNPOWER CORP-A (SPWR): Free Stock Analysis Report
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