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Can First Solar Shine Along With Rest of Its Industry Group?

Anticipation surrounding First Solar, Inc. (FSLR) financials comes in the larger context of the revival of solar stocks over the last few months.  A number of solar stocks have posted strong
Michael Teague is a staff writer for Equities.com. His previous experience includes three years as the associate editor of Los Angeles-based Al Jadid Magazine, a bi-annual review of the arts & culture of the Middle East, where he contributed many articles on the region in the form of features and book & film reviews. His educational background includes a BA in French literature from the University of California, Irvine, where he developed a startling proclivity for anything having to do with the 19th century.
Michael Teague is a staff writer for Equities.com. His previous experience includes three years as the associate editor of Los Angeles-based Al Jadid Magazine, a bi-annual review of the arts & culture of the Middle East, where he contributed many articles on the region in the form of features and book & film reviews. His educational background includes a BA in French literature from the University of California, Irvine, where he developed a startling proclivity for anything having to do with the 19th century.

Anticipation surrounding First Solar, Inc. (FSLR) financials comes in the larger context of the revival of solar stocks over the last few months.  A number of solar stocks have posted strong growth over the last quarter, after a long period during which solar companies struggled: SunPower Corp. (SPWR) is up a whopping 197.75 percent, Trina Solar Limited (TSL) up 90.20 percent, JA Solar Holdings (JASO) up 55.4 percent, Canadian Solar Inc. (CSIQ) up 82 percent, while First Solar is actually lagging in this respect, up only 33.8 percent.

These strong performances can be attributed to a number of factors, such as increases in product efficiency (SunPower is an especially good example of this), and the opening up of new markets in South America and West Asia.  In terms of the U.S., dropping costs have also played a major role, allowing more businesses, for example, to purchase the panels that can provide power on the spot, independently of traditional utilities.

And costs must go down if solar power is to compete with the traditional grid power system.  This phenomenon has already occurred in Hawaii, where solar is actually the cheaper of the two, and is beginning to make its way into the rest of the United States, though it may yet be a while before it reaches the kind of widespread use that will cause significant changes to how energy is produced, bought, and sold.

This brings us back to FirstSolar, whose shares, by midday Tuesday, are down about 3 percent, trading at just under $32. The company is scheduled to announce fourth quarter results after the market close.  For Q4, the company is expected to bring in revenue of between $1.22 and $1.44 billion, with earnings-per-share estimated at $1.76. A little over a year ago, the company adjusted its focus to the creation of solar farms for utility companies, which caused worries about the company’s ability to make money in the future.  Furthermore, its panels are still about half as efficient as competitors like SunPower.  Last Friday, the stock was downgraded to “underperform” by Pacific Crest.

 

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