NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Shares of First Solar ( FSLR) hit a 52-week low on Monday, continuing a slide that began after the company's disappointing fourth-quarter report last week. Shares of First Solar scraped fresh nadir for the past year of $27.50. The stock's 52-week high of $163 was set on April 1. "After all the charges that hit 4Q11 results, what counts in our view is the earning power of the company, as expressed by the bottom line number ex-the charges, or the so-called non-GAAP EPS figure for the period, which came to $1.26 per share," Wellington Shields analysts wrote in a March 2 report. "This was $0.35 short of our own 4Q11 EPS estimate of $1.61, as a result of 4Q revenues coming in $160M under our estimate at $660M."
First Solar also revealed issues with its solar panel performance under intense heat conditions last week, which added to fears about the company's future, as it transitions to a business focused largely on desert projects. First Solar shares trade at an estimated price-to-earnings ratio for next year of 6.3 times; the average for renewable energy equipment companies is 9.87. For comparison, SunPower ( SPWR) has a higher forward P/E of 12.2X. Twenty-six of the 40 analysts who cover First Solar rate it at hold. Seven analysts give the stock a buy rating and another seven rate it at sell. TheStreet Ratings gives the stock a C- grade and hold rating. The stock has fallen 16.8% year to date. Solar stocks tend to be volatile trades during days of market bearishness and with the 1% slide in the Nasdaq on Monday, a heavy selling day in solar stocks is not surprising. First Solar peer MEMC Electronic Materials ( WFR) also hit a new 52-week low on Monday. The solar sector index was down close to 4% in afternoon trades. First Solar is also being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding possible violations of Regulation Fair Disclosure. This rule prevents companies from disclosing material non-public information on a selective basis.