US-based solar manufacturer First Solar announced its Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2017 financial results late last week and it was a mixed bag of results, beating earnings expectations but missing on revenue while taking a multi-million dollar hit due to US tax reform.
First Solar reported net sales in the fourth quarter of $339 million — down on expectations and well down on the exceptional $1.1 billion taken in during the third quarter of 2017, but down also on the more in-line net sales of $829 million in the first quarter of 2017 to $623 million in the second quarter. Non-GAAP earnings per share were a loss of $0.25 for the fourth quarter, which was actually a $0.06 improvement on expectations.
Not helping matters was a fourth-quarter once-off charge of $408 million, or a loss of $3.91 per share, resulting from recently implemented US tax reform, which included a tax on previously untaxed foreign earnings and profits, and the impact of re-measuring deferred tax assets using the new US statutory corporate tax rate.
However, it is worth noting that the same tax reform which resulted in the $408 million charge might also result in First Solar expanding its US manufacturing capabilities. For more, see here.
Net sales for the Full Year 2017 were $2.9 billion, in line with the $2.95 billion recorded a year ago.
“First Solar delivered another year of solid execution in 2017,” said Mark Widmar, CEO of First Solar. “We had tremendous commercial success as we booked a record 7.7 GWDC of new business in 2017, with 1.3 GWDC booked so far in 2018. Our financial results were strong with 2017 non-GAAP EPS of $2.59 and operating cash flows in excess of $1.3 billion. We enter 2018 with an unwavering focus on profitably, scaling our modules business, executing on our systems project portfolio, and delivering on our financial commitments.”
First Solar also highlighted several productivity accomplishments, including “significant progress” in establishing production of its forthcoming large-format Series 6 module, which will be produced across five facilities located in Ohio, Vietnam, and Malaysia — moves which are, unsurprisingly, reducing production of the company’s Series 4 line as it ramps down to make way for Series 6 production.
“On the technology front we made significant progress preparing multiple factories for Series 6 manufacturing in 2018, including the production of our first complete module late last year,” Widmer explained.
The company also explained that it is “largely sold out through 2018, 209, and into the first half of 2020” which is serving to muddy the specific impact First Solar expects from the recent Section 201 trade case which was concluded earlier this year.
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