First Solar Dims Post-Earnings as It Evaluates Panel-Making Business

First Solar plunges after a surprise quarterly loss and lower-than-expected sales - and a reveal that it is evaluating options for its solar farm business.
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Shares of First Solar  (FSLR) - Get Report plunged on Friday after the largest U.S. maker of solar panels and systems posted a surprise quarterly loss, sales that fell short of analysts’ forecasts, and said it was evaluating options for its solar farm-building business, hinting it may seek to sell that part of its operations. 

Shares of the Tempe, Arizona-based company were down more than 13%, or $7.73 a share, at $51.59 in morning trading after announcing that it was in the early stages of reviewing its U.S. project development business, according to a statement from the company.

“First Solar, at its core, is a technology and module manufacturing company,” First Solar CEO Mark Widmar said in the statement. “Given the significant evolution of developing utility-scale PV projects in the U.S., we believe now is an appropriate time to evaluate our options.”

The announcement follows the company’s announcement of a surprise quarterly loss as well as sales below expectations. First Solar said it lost $59 million, or 56 cents a share, in the fourth quarter, vs. a profit of $52 million, or 49 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Sales rose to $1.4 billion from $691 million a year ago. Analysts polled by FactSet had expected First Solar to report a profit of $2.75 a share on sales of $1.7 billion.

For 2020, First Solar said it now expects sales of between $2.7 billion and $2.9 billion, and per-share profit of between $3.25 and $3.75, below analysts’ forecasts of $3.64 a share and sales of $3.36 billion.