First Solar, Inc. (FSLR) Q4 Earnings Preview

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First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) is set to report its fiscal fourth quarter and full year earnings on Tuesday, February 25 at 4:00 pm EST. The Tempe, Arizona-based company will hold a conference call to discuss its quarterly results at 4:30 pm EST. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect the company to earn 99 cents per share on Q4 revenues of $961.5 million. The consensus earnings represent a 51.5% decline from the $2.04 per share that First Solar earned the same quarter last year. And the revenue estimate is 10.2% lower than $1.08 billion in the corresponding quarter last year.

First Solar could miss the consensus revenue estimate

However, Goldman Sachs analyst Brian Lee says First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR)’s actual revenues could be 7% lower than the Wall Street consensus. That’s because over the past few months, the activity on large-scale solar projects has slowed. The research firm says that the solar industry growth has shifted from utility-scale projects to the rooftop.

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Over the past four quarters, First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) has missed the Wall Street consensus twice, exceeding expectations the other two times. During the fourth quarter, analysts say that the Desert Sunlight project should help the company’s revenues and profit margins. Analysts will be closely watching First Solar’s booking growth metrics. The company booked 860MW of new projects in the third quarter of 2013.

Can First Solar further improve its margins?

In Q3, First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) reduced its panel manufacturing costs by 12% QoQ to 49 cents per watt, which the company claims to be the lowest in the solar industry. In the same period, First Solar increased the average efficiency of its solar panels by 30 basis points to 13.3%. Analysts will be watching closely how First Solar reduces its manufacturing costs further. Gross margins will also be closely monitored. The company’s gross margins stood at 28.8% in Q3, and investors will welcome any upside to that number.

First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) shares surged 2.11% to $58.97 in pre-market trading on earnings day.