First Solar, Inc. (FSLR) Q1 Earnings Set To Decline

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First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) will announce its March quarter results on Tuesday, May 6 after the bell. Analysts expect the solar panel maker’s Q1 earnings to decline from the corresponding quarter last year. Analysts polled by FactSet forecast 52 cents in EPS on net income of $50 million. First Solar had earned 69 cents on net income of $59 million in the same quarter last year.

First Solar is gaining traction in the utility-scale market

However, First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR)’s revenues are expected to jump 11% YoY from $755 million to $837.95 million. Last week, Deutsche Bank analysts said they expect “mixed results” due to not-so-impressive sales announcement in the first quarter. The research firm noted that the U.S. utility-scale market is picking up, and First Solar is gaining traction in that segment.

The Q1 consensus estimate hasn’t changed since last month. But the earnings estimate has declined significantly from 73 cents three months ago. For the full-year 2014, analysts forecast $3.78 billion in revenues and $2.45 per share in earnings. First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR)’s revenues have been increasing for the past two consecutive quarters. In the last quarter of 2013, revenues ticked up 2% to $768.4 million. Prior to that, the Tempe, Arizona-based company’s revenues rose 51% in Q3, 2013.

Strong balance sheet could help First Solar win more projects

Baird Equity Research analysts Ben Kallo and Tyler Frank said in a research note that they expect First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) to report $856.7 million in revenues and 53 cents in non-GAAP EPS. Analysts said that any project announcements in the commercial or rooftop market would be a positive for the solar panel maker. On its Analyst Day, First Solar said that it has 45MW of commercial opportunities and has already been shortlisted for about 15MW of projects.

Baird analysts said First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR)’s solid balance sheet could be a source of competitive advantage for the company. At the end of December 2013, First Solar had $1.76 billion in cash and cash equivalents, and a debt-to-equity ratio of 5%. Its strong balance sheet would play a crucial role in winning new businesses, especially as its Chinese rivals have shown little ability to avoid bankruptcy. Baird has an Outperform rating on the stock with $87 price target.

First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) shares inched up 0.29% to $68.24 at 1:32 PM EDT on Monday.

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