First Solar, the biggest manufacturer of cadmium telluride-based thin-film photovoltaics reported earnings for the second quarter of 2012 that beat its and analysts estimates. The company reported the higher-than-expected earnings based on projects under construction beginning to generate revenue, among them, Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1 in California and Silver State North in Nevada. And based on certain restructuring initiatives, First Solar upped its full-year 2012 guidance.
For the second quarter of 2012 First Solar reported net sales of $957 million, up $460 million from the first quarter of 2012 and $425 million from the second quarter of 2011, the company said. The net sales translated to an earnings per share of $1.27, compared to a net loss of $5.20 per share in the first quarter of 2012 and net income of $0.70 per share in the second quarter of 2011.
The return to profitability comes after First Solar named its new CEO Jim Hughes at its first quarter 2012 earnings report. And it reflects First Solar’s moves to develop projects in what it calls sustainable markets, or markets where incentives aren’t needed to drive the competitiveness of solar. Such markets include Australia where the company has already been successful in two project bids. “In June, we announced 2 new projects that we will be designing, constructing and maintaining for AGL Energy in Australia for a combined total of 159 megawatts AC. This development will be almost 16 times larger than the next biggest site, a 10-megawatt plant in Geraldton, Western Australia, which is also being constructed by First Solar for Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services,” Hughes said. The company also projects underway in India and the Middle East. And on the same day it announced the results, the company announced a new 139 megawatt project in California.
Looking forward, at least in the near term, First Solar has a large pipeline of projects to fill. It’s pipeline now stands at 2.9 gigawatts of AC projects, Hughes said. The company also has recognized revenues from approximately 387 megawatts of installed solar. “We have also added close to 1 gigawatt in additional new bookings in 2012, of which more than half are considered secured but subject to the closure of final documentation,” Hughes said.
The extra project bookings mean the company will start ramping up production throughout the rest of 2012, according First Solar’s Chief Financial Officer Mark Widmar. “In Q2, we ran our plants at approximately 63% of capacity, down 27 percentage points quarter-over-quarter, producing 369 megawatts,” he said. “For the second half of the year, in response to higher demand, we will increase production and plan to run our plants at approximately 90% capacity utilization.”
Based on the quarter’s results, the company is upping its full-year guidance. It now anticipates net sales of $3.6 to $3.9 billion, up from its prior guidance of $3.5 to $3.8 billion. And it anticipates that the range of earnings per share will increase to
$4.20 to $4.70, up from prior guidance of $4.00 to $4.50 per share.