Delay on Federal Loan Thumps First Solar (FSLR, EXC)

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Thin-film solar panel maker First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) has been unable to shake loose a payment from the US Department of Energy on the company’s $646 million loan guarantee for the construction of its Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One project. Last September, Exelon Corp. (NYSE: EXC) purchased the project for $75 million contingent upon First Solar receiving the federal money. Under a first extension to a four-month deadline for getting the loan, First Solar has until February 24th to collect unless the two companies agree to another extension.

The project has run into local opposition and permitting problems, which could delay construction, and the federal loan payment. Investment firm Collins Stewart lowered the company’s stock from ‘buy’ to ‘neutral’ this morning.

The sale to Exelon would be cancelled if the loan payment is not made. First Solar could probably find another buyer, but a re-purchase would hammer the company’s quarterly earnings.

First Solar shares are down more than -8% at $44.82 in a 52-week range of $29.87-$175.45.