First Solar, Inc. (FSLR): Will It Meet Q1 Earnings Expectations?

First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) will announce its first quarter results on Tuesday, May 6 after the bell. Expectations aren’t really high from the company, especially after disappointing fourth quarter results and first quarter guidance. First Solar expects its Q1 revenues to come in the range of $800-$900 million, which is at the low-end of the consensus estimate. The company’s guidance calls for 50-60 cents in EPS.

First Solar’s earnings expected to fall 18.8%

Analysts polled by FactSet expect First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR)’s earnings to plunge 18.8% to 56 cents. But revenues are expected to jump 11% to $837.95 million. The Tempe, Arizona-based solar panel maker has exceeded the Wall Street expectations just once in the past four quarters. Last week, Deutsche Bank said in a research note that it expects mixed results for the company due to weak Q1 sales announcements. But the research firm said the U.S. utility-scale solar market is gaining momentum, and First Solar is positioned to benefit from it.

For FY2014, Wall Street forecasts $2.45 in EPS and $3.78 billion in revenues. On the Analyst Day, First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) said that it is pursuing 45MW of commercial opportunities. And so far, the company has been shortlisted for 15MW of projects. Baird Equity Research analyst Ben Kallo said in a research report that new project announcements in the rooftop or commercial markets should boost the stock. First Solar is now focusing on smaller projects and international expansion as growth in the U.S. utility-scale projects slows.

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First Solar’s strong balance sheet may help it win new businesses

First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) forecasts its earnings to be choppy between 2014 and 2016. The company expects strong earnings gains in 2015, but that could subside slightly by 2016. One big positive about First Solar is its strong balance sheet, notes Baird. The company exited 2013 with a debt-to-equity ratio of 5% and cash of $1.76 billion. That should help the company win new businesses as its Chinese competitors are struggling to avoid bankruptcy.

First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) shares inched up 0.64% to $68.86 at 10:37 AM EDT on Tuesday.