First Solar, Inc. (FSLR): Citi Remains Bullish After Mgmt. Meeting

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First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) management met with Citi analyst Shar Pourreza and the rest of the Citi team recently, and they came away from that meeting feeling like their bullish view was confirmed. They said the company’s outlook is positive and covered some of the key areas they say show the company’s strength.

Shares of First Solar rose 2% in trading on Wednesday.

First Solar has a nice pipeline backlog

According to Citi analysts, First Solar, Inc. (NYSE:FSLR) has 7.7 GW in backlog, which they see as a healthy amount. They believe that will keep growing as well. They note that utility scale solar installments are expected grow internationally and report that they are about 60% of the backlog. They also expect growth in non-traditional states.

They say international growth is focused on mining companies in Chile, industry in Mexico, Middle East adoption, growth in Japan, competition in India, and politics in Africa and Europe.

Other areas of health for First Solar

The analysts also say First Solar continues to see costs fall as they improve efficiency and executive their roadmap. In addition, they said gross margins are still healthy there, coming in between 15% and 17% and being driven by “substantial synergies between the segments.” The analysts say although gross margins are “interesting,” return on invested capital could end up being a more important measurement for First Solar, Inc. (NYSE:FSLR) because of the big differences in deployed capital.

They also said First Solar is starting to see a mix shift to observations and measurements thanks to the barriers it has created for competitors to enter. It offers fee-based observations and measurements services through proprietary technology which monitor solar operations and send resources to fix issues. The company said it expects to be awarded “many” third-party contracts in this area.

Benefits of the GE partnership

And then there’s the partnership with General Electric Company (NYSE:GE). At first, this relationship will be focused on intellectual property, but the analysts note it could provide strategic benefits for First Solar, Inc. (NYSE:FSLR) down the road. That relationship doubled First Solar’s patent portfolio, according to Citi analysts.


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