Chris Lau, KAPITALL Contributor: Since reporting earnings in February, First Solar (FSLR) shares rebounded sharply in April after updating its guidance for the next few years. The shift in sentiment caught short sellers off-guard: at last check, short float was 30%. [More Analysis by Chris Lau: A Look at Solar City as Shares Soar Over 70%]
Fourth Quarter Earnings
Gross margins declined 110 basis points from the previous quarter to 27.3%. The company guided gross margins to decline in the current quarter, down to between 25% – 27%. Even though operating expenditures declined 8% from the previous quarter to $121.5 million, the company said that the market will remain turbulent for some time to come.
Investors in February interpreted the negative tone as a reason to sell shares from $35 to as low as $25 by the beginning of March 2013.Analysts lighten up in March Analysts began to lighten up last month. Raymond James upgraded First Solar, Trina Solar (TSL) and SunPower (SPWR) to a “market perform” rating. DNB Markets also upgraded First Solar to a “hold” rating, setting a price target of $27. Suntech Bankruptcy Investors grew more confident on solvent solar energy players like First Solar, after Suntech filed for bankruptcy. Although a reader astutely noted that oversupply will remain an issue despite the bankruptcy, the Suntech filing still brings hope for balance in the industry. Weaker players will be shaken from the industry, which will benefit the healthier companies like First Solar. First Solar Guidance Positive On April 9, 2013, First Solar said on its analyst day meeting that the company will earn $4.00 to $4.50 per share in 2013 on revenue of between $3.8 billion – $4 billion. The figures were far higher than consensus estimates. Analysts forecast revenue to be as low as $3.2 billion.