Energy Business

First Solar Shares Skid on Executive's Departure (FSLR, ESLR, GE, NEE, TAN)

After markets closed yesterday, First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) announced the resignation of Jens Meyerhoff, president of its utility systems business group, effective September 30th. Meyerhoff joined First Solar in May 2006 as CFO and was promoted to president of the systems group in July 2010. In pre-market trading this morning, First Solar shares were down about -2.5% on the news.

Anytime a senior executive leaves a company investors naturally wonder why. Often, though, there is less there than meets the eye, and this could be one of those times. The recent bankruptcy filing by Evergreen Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ: ESLR) has put the solar sector into the spotlight again, and this is probably adding to the attention focused on Meyerhoff’s departure.

First Solar is currently seeking US Department of Energy loan guarantees for three new utility-scale solar projects, as well as financing for the projects and the sale of a completed project to General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) and NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NEE). Meyerhoff’s departure should have virtually no effect on any of these projects, primarily because First Solar has already appointed two experienced executives to lead the systems business group.

A note from Credit Suisse points out that the company’s CEO has now completed the construction of a completely different core executive team from the one he inherited and that the bank’s analysts “believe this team has the skill set to control best what it can in this oversupplied environment.”

And that oversupply situation remains the big issue facing First Solar and every other solar maker. Managing that, and managing investors’ expectations related to oversupply, is a top priority now.

First Solar’s shares are down nearly -4% in the first few minutes of trading this morning, to $100.53, in a 52-week range of $92.75-$175.45. Shares of Guggenheim Solar ETF (NYSE: TAN) are down nearly -1%, at $5.72, in a 52-week range of $5.08-$9.34.

Paul Ausick