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First Solar (FSLR)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

February 28, 2012 4:30 pm ET


David Brady - Vice President of Treasury & Investor Relations

Michael J. Ahearn - Chairman and Interim Chief Executive Officer

Mark R. Widmar - Chief Financial Officer and Chief Accounting Officer


Brian K. Lee - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Sanjay Shrestha - Lazard Capital Markets LLC, Research Division

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Timothy M. Arcuri - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Jesse Pichel - Jefferies & Company, Inc., Research Division

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Good day, everyone, and welcome to First Solar's Fourth Quarter 2011 Earnings Conference Call. This call is being webcast live on the Investor section of First Solar's website at [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, today's call is being recorded. I would now like to turn the call over to David Brady, Vice President, Treasury and Investor Relations. Mr. Brady, you may begin.

David Brady

Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us for First Solar's Fourth Quarter 2011 Earnings Call. This afternoon, the company issued a press release announcing its financial results for the fourth quarter of 2011. If you did not receive a copy of this press release, you can obtain one from the Investors section of First Solar's website at

In addition, we have posted the presentation for this call on our Investor Relations website. An audio replay of the call will also be available approximately 2 hours after its conclusion. The audio replay will remain available until March 5, 2012, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and can be accessed by dialing (888) 203-1112, if you're calling from within the United States, or (719) 457-0820, if you're calling from outside the United States, and entering the replay pass code 861-2954.

A replay of the webcast will be available on the Investors section of the company's website approximately 2 hours after the conclusion of the call and will remain available for approximately 90 calendar days. If you're a subscriber of FactSet or Thomson ONE, you can obtain a written transcript.

With me today are Mike Ahearn, Chairman of the Board and Interim Chief Executive Officer; and Mark Widmar, Chief Financial Officer. Mike will present an overview of market conditions and then Mark will review our operational and financial results for the fourth quarter of 2011 and discuss the details of some of the charges we took. We will then open up the call for questions.

[Operator Instructions] First Solar has allocated approximately 1 hour for today's call. Both the financial numbers reported and discussed on today's call are based on U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. In a few cases where we report non-GAAP measures, such as free cash flow or non-GAAP EPS, we have reconciled the non-GAAP measures to GAAP measures at the back of our presentation.

Now I'd like to make a brief statement regarding forward-looking remarks that you may hear on today's call. During the course of this call, the company will make projections and other comments that are forward-looking statements within the meaning of Federal Securities laws. The forward-looking statements in this call are based on current information and expectations and subject to uncertainties and changes in circumstances and do not constitute guarantees of future performance.

Those statements involve a number of factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those statements, including the risks as described in the company's most recent annual report on Form 10-K and other filings within the Securities and Exchange Commission. First Solar assumes no obligation to update any forward-looking information contained in this call or with respect to the announcements described herein.

It is now my pleasure to introduce Mike Ahearn, Chairman of the Board and Interim Chief Executive Officer of First Solar. Mike?

Michael J. Ahearn

Thanks, David, and welcome to our Q4 2011 earnings call. As discussed on our recent call, traditional solar markets subsidies are declining, continue to decline and significant nonsubsidized markets have not yet developed. Last week, the German environmental and economics administration released a proposal that would significantly reduce or potentially phase out the German solar market.

The fate of this bill, which will we presented to the cabinet tomorrow and still needs to pass through Parliament and the chambers of the federal states, remains unclear. However, it is likely that even if less draconian measures are ultimately adopted, Germany, like other feed-in tariff markets, will continue to be challenged in 2012 and beyond.

The key to First Solar's success is to develop new markets that do not depend on subsidies, and we believe we can do this by focusing on regions in the world that are blessed with a lot of sun and need more peak electricity. Our superior module technology, combined with our ability to design, engineer, construct and maintain large solar electricity generation plants and integrate them with the grid, should enable us to reduce solar electricity prices to grid parity levels in these markets, while still making an attractive profit. Our demonstrated success in selling solar electricity and solar generation plants to leading U.S. utilities will provide targeted customers in these new markets with important validations of our capabilities.

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