Big Gains Made by First Solar

First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) may be a beneficiary of the recent political and energy initiatives, but the company’s share price is down handily from its highs of April. Now the shares ticked higher after earnings came out on Tuesday afternoon.

Before you just jump into the numbers on a straight line basis, there are GAAP numbers to consider and some of these might not line up directly with the formal earnings estimates from Thomson Reuters. First Solar said that net sales came to $896 million, which looks well above the $751.7 million expected by Thomson Reuters. This was shown to be an increase of $427 million from the first quarter of 2015.

First Solar said of revenues:

The increase in net sales from the prior quarter resulted from increased revenue recognition on the Silver State South project and the sale of majority interests in the North Star and Lost Hills-Blackwell projects.

First Solar reported that GAAP earnings per fully diluted share was $0.93, which compares to a non-GAAP expectation of $0.36 EPS. On this, the company said:

The sequential increase in net income was due to higher systems project revenue, project cost improvements and a discrete tax benefit in the second quarter of approximately $42 million.

The solar leader in America reported that its cash and marketable securities was $1.8 billion at the end of June, and its net cash was $1.5 billion. This was a $291 million increase in cash and marketable securities during the quarter, due to “receipts from the sale of majority interests in the North Star and Lost Hills-Blackwell projects as well as proceeds received in conjunction with the 8point3 Energy Partners IPO.”

Guidance for 2015 was put in a range of sales as $3.5 billion to $3.6 billion, versus $3.44 billion consensus. Earnings per share was guided to $3.30 to $3.60 EPS versus $2.36 EPS expected.

The company sees 2015 gross margin of 21% to 22%, and operating income of $330 million to $370 million. First Solar sees a $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion net cash balance at the end of 2015.

Jim Hughes, CEO of First Solar, said:

We achieved significant financial and technological milestones this past quarter with the IPO of 8point3 Energy Partners and a new record module conversion efficiency of 18.6%. In combination with year-to-date bookings of 1.4GW and full year earnings guidance of over three dollars per share, we continue to execute across all elements of our business.

First Solar shares closed up almost 25 at $44.50 ahead of the report, and shares initially rose 5% to 6% in the after-hours. On last look the stock was up 10% from the closing price. The stock has a 52-week range of $39.18 to $73.78 and a consensus analyst price target of $62.85.

Now there is just one hurdle left. First Solar (and the rest of its solar and alternative energy peers and competitors) needs to convince investors and Wall Street that its stock and its prospects are not just at the mercy of oil prices.

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