First Solar takes 2009 revenue past US$2 billion: guides close to US$3 billion for 2010

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UPDATED: Financial results for First Solar in 2009 clearly place the CdTe thin-film solar producer as the number-one photovoltaics manufacturer by revenue in the world in 2009. This is the first time that the company has reached this position. Revenues topped US$2,066.2 million in 2009, up from US$1,246.3 million in 2008. Fourth-quarter revenue reached  US$641.3 million, up from $480.9 million in the third quarter. Module production for the quarter reached 311MW, a new record for the company, resulting in 2009 production levels of 1.1GW, a record for the industry. Annualized capacity per line reached 53.4MW.

The company also announced that it was expanding production at its Malaysian facilities and plans to add 8 new lines, with shipments starting in the first half of 2011.

Capital spending for 2010 was said to be between US$500 and US$550 million.

Update (2) Conversion efficiencies of its CdTe thin-film modules reached 11.1% in the quarter and the module manufacturing cost was US$0.84 per watt. Production cost per watt was lowered to US$0.80 per watt. The company is confident of a 3.5% per annum reduction through 2014.

First Solar also updated capacity plans for its Ohio facility and its joint venture in France with EDF. Combined with the Malaysian fab expansions, First Solar expects to reach a production capacity increase of only 54MW in 2010, due mainly to improved line optimization and line expansion at its Ohio fab, already being expanded.

However, capacity is expected to reach 1.7GW in 2011 with lines 5 and 6 coming online in Malaysia by midyear. The planned EDF manufacturing partnership will provide a 107MW boost to capacity in 2012, with a total capacity reaching 1,816MW by the end of 2012.

Update (3) With a high exposure to the German market, executives noted that they expected installations to be approximately 3GW in 2010, basically flat with what they believe was installed in 2009.

In 2010, despite efforts to open other geographical markets, such as the U.S, the company still expects approximately 40 to 50% of its module sales to come from Germany.

Because of the planned feed-in tariff changes due for implementation on June 1, First Solar expects shipments to Germany to be first half year loaded.


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