First Solar cuts 2011 financial estimates

AP News
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Posted: Dec 14, 2011 6:23 PM
First Solar cuts 2011 financial estimates

First Solar Inc. on Wednesday cut its earnings and revenue estimates for 2011 due to weather delays and other unspecified issues with some company projects. It also said it was laying off about 100 people.

The Tempe, Ariz. solar manufacturer said it expects to earn between $5.75 and $6 per share on revenue of $2.8 billion to $2.9 billion in 2011. That's down from an already reduced estimate of earnings of $6.50 to $7.50 per share on revenue of $3 billion to $3.3 billion.

Shares plunged $9.12, or 21.4 percent, to close at $33.45 Wednesday. Analysts were expecting earnings of $6.92 per share on revenue of $3.19 billion.

First Solar cut earnings estimates two months ago after announcing that former CEO Rob Gillette was leaving. Analysts have expected weaker financial results this year from most solar companies. The industry has been hit hard by slower economic growth around the world, including the U.S., where government funding has been squeezed for alternative energy projects.

First Solar, the nation's largest solar company, is also facing competition from a growing number of Chinese companies.

In addition to its reduced 2011 earnings guidance, First Solar expects to report charges of 85 cents per share related to a series of cost-cutting moves this year, including the layoffs of about 100 people. First Solar is getting rid of 60 jobs at a Santa Clara, Calif. research facility and 85 U.S. jobs in all. A spokesman wouldn't disclose the locations of the other 15 positions.

Most of those charges will be incurred in the fourth quarter.

For 2012, First Solar expects to earn between $3.75 and $4.25 per share on revenue of $3.7 billion to $4 billion. It also estimates cash flow at between $900 million and $1.1 billion. The company plans to spend between $375 million and $425 million on capital investments.

Wall Street is looking for earnings of $7.26 per share on revenue of $4.07 billion next year.