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First Solar Slips To Loss On Charges


U.S. solar panel maker First Solar Inc. (FSLR) said Thursday after the markets closed that it swung to a first quarter loss, hurt by hefty restructuring charges.

The company's quarterly loss per share and its quarterly revenue were way off the figures predicted by analysts.

However, the company raised its full year adjusted earnings outlook due to reductions in its ongoing cost structure.

"First Solar's performance in the quarter was impacted by an aggressive competitive environment resulting from persistent supply-demand imbalances in the market, as well as restructuring costs that will improve our operating efficiency and help position us for the future," said Mike Ahearn, Chairman of the First Solar board.

Separately, First Solar said it has appointed James Hughes as Chief Executive Officer. Hughes, who joined the company in March as Chief Commercial Officer, succeeds ounder and Chairman Mike Ahearn, who has been serving as interim CEO since October 2011. Ahearn will continue in his role as Chairman of the Board.

The company also announced the retirement of Chief Technology Officer Dave Eaglesham and the appointment of Raffi Garabedian as his successor.

First Solar shares having reversing between gains and losses in after hours trading after closing the day's regular trading session at $18.07, down 14 cents. The shares trade in a 52-week range of $17.65 to $142.22.

First Solar and other solar panel manufacturers have been struggling recently, as a global oversupply of solar panels and weakened demand have driven prices lower.

First Solar said last month that it will close its manufacturing plant in Germany and indefinitely idle four production lines at its plant in Malaysia, as part of its efforts to reduce costs amid deteriorating market conditions in Europe. The restructuring would reduce the solar panel maker's global workforce by about 2,000 positions, or about 30% of the total.

For the first quarter ended March 31, 2012, the Tempe, Arizona-based company reported a net loss of $449.4 million or $5.20 per share, compared to net income of %116.0 million or $1.33 per share for the year-ago quarter.

The latest quarter results were impacted by pre-tax charges consisting of $401 million related to previously-announced restructuring actions, including asset impairments, and $43 million related to costs in excess of normal warranty expense associated with the company's previously announced 2008 to 2009 manufacturing excursion. In aggregate, the charges reduced first quarter 2012 earnings per share by $5.12.

Excluding the charges, adjusted loss for the latest quarter was $0.08 per share.

On average, 30 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the company to earn $0.59 per share for the first quarter. Analysts' estimates typically exclude special items.

Net sales for the first quarter fell 12% to $497.06 million from $567.29 million in the same quarter last year, mainly due to lower average selling prices and lower volumes for module-only sales. Thirty-two analysts had a consensus revenue estimate of $681.50 million for the first quarter.

Based on reductions in the company's ongoing cost structure related to its restructuring initiatives, First Solar raised its 2012 adjusted earnings guidance to a range of $4.00 to $4.50 per share from its prior guidance of $3.75 to $4.25 per share. Analysts currently expect the company to earn $4.07 per share for the full year 2012.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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