More senior staff changes at First Solar as business groups combined

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There has been a wave of changes at First Solar over the last few months, indicative of the challenging business environment and the return of Mike Ahearn as interim CEO after the ousting of former CEO Rob Gillete. A less than complimentary view of the way the CEO had been running the company was aired by the chairman in the Q3 conference call.

The latest change includes TK Kallenbach, president of the Components Business Group (CBG), who will be leaving First Solar effective January 1, 2012 as the company combines its Utility Systems Business Group and Components Business Group under one structure encompassing sales, project development, product management and the customer service and technical services groups.

His replacement is Jim Brown, with the new role of president, Global Business Development. Brown joined First Solar in 2008 as vice president, Project Finance and was appointed president of the Utility Systems business in August 2011. Prior to joining First Solar, Brown worked in banking for approximately 20 years covering project and structured finance for the energy and industrial sectors.

The move highlights statements from Mike Ahearn that the company would increasingly focus revenue generation on the PV project business compared to supplying modules to distributors and strategic partners as price competition intensifies with conventional crystalline technologies.

First Solar has also reorganized the structure and roles in its finance and accounting groups to optimize efficiency. As a result, James Zhu, chief accounting officer, has elected to leave the company to pursue other opportunities. Mark Widmar, chief financial officer, will add the role of chief accounting officer to his responsibilities, effective February 1, 2012 and Zhu will remain with First Solar through May 1, 2012 to ensure a smooth transition.

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