First Solar’s quarterly revenues, income rise, but company lowers 2011 guidance

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Just one day after First Solar announced that Rob Gillette was no longer its chief executive officer, the company made the unusual move to push up its earnings announcements for the third quarter of 2011. Net sales for Q3 reached US$1 billion showing an increase of US$473 million from Q2 2011. Quarterly net sales also saw jumped up US$798 million from Q3 2010.

Even though the company posted higher revenues and income, it did lower its guidance for 2011 from the previously stated US$3.6 to US$3.7 billion to US$3 to US$3.3 billion. Vishal Shah, a research analyst with Deutsche Bank, noted that First Solar’s Q3 2011 earnings and full year guidance were actually “worse than consensus,” but Shah did acknowledge that some investors might be resting easier with the early earnings announcement. Shah additionally commented that Deutsche Bank was lowering its 2011 EPS estimates from US$9.00 to US$6.90 and its 2012 EPS estimates from US$8.50 to US$6.95.

“First Solar's performance in the quarter reflects our superior technology, strong execution capability, and integrated business model – all of which have enabled us to weather a difficult market environment relatively well,” said Mike Ahearn, chairman of the board and interim chief executive officer of First Solar. “Going forward, our goal is not just to survive the current environment, but to transcend it by creating and expanding markets worldwide that do not depend on today's subsidy programs. This requires that we re-focus our strategy and commit our resources to solving the pressing energy needs that exist in much of the world.”

In response to the sudden departure of Gillette, Ahearn additionally commented, stating, “We thank Rob for his service, but the Board of Directors believes First Solar needed a leadership change to navigate through the industry turmoil and achieve our long-term goals.”

First Solar advised that in preparation for 2012 it would be reducing its capital expenditures and assessing opportunities for the reallocation of its overhead expenses so that it could further fund investments in market development, sales and R&D.

The company will hold its Q3 2011 earnings conference call on November 3 at 4:30pm EDT, where it will further discuss quarter results and its revised 2011 outlook.

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