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Sales of Projects Lead to First Solar's Positive Net Sales Growth in the Fourth Quarter of 2014

published: 2015-02-25 14:57

First Solar, Inc. announced on February 24th the financial results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2014. Net sales were $1,008 million in the quarter, an increase of $119 million from the third quarter of 2014. The sequential increase in net sales resulted from the sale of the Solar Gen 2 project, initial revenue recognition on the Silver State South project and other projects under construction. Revenue recognition from the Desert Sunlight and Topaz projects were lower as the projects reached completion.

The Company reported a fourth quarter GAAP earnings per fully diluted share of $1.89, compared to earnings of $0.87 in the prior quarter. The increase in net income compared to the prior quarter was due to higher profit from the sale of the Solar Gen 2 project and project cost improvements.

Cash and marketable securities at the end of the fourth quarter were approximately $2.0 billion, an increase of approximately $876 million compared to the prior quarter. Cash flows from operations were $928 million in the fourth quarter. The increase in cash and marketable securities during the quarter was due to the sale of the Solar Gen 2 project and the collection of retention payments on the Topaz and Desert Sunlight projects.

"We closed 2014 with strong execution across all fronts," said Jim Hughes, CEO of First Solar. "We have exceeded the earnings per share, operating cash flow and bookings targets that we set at our 2014 Analyst Day. In addition we have announced another new record cell efficiency. With our strong bookings we are well positioned as we enter 2015 and remain focused on executing to our strategy."

Additionally, the Company announced that it is in advanced negotiations to form a joint YieldCo vehicle with SunPower Corp. into which each company expects to contribute a portfolio of selected solar generation assets from their existing portfolio of assets. Additional details about the joint venture will be provided when they become available.

The Company also provided guidance for the first quarter of 2015 as follows:
• Net Sales of $550 to $650 million
• Loss of ($0.25) to ($0.35) per fully diluted share
• Cash used in operating activities of ($400) to ($500) million

Financial guidance for revenue, earnings, and operating cash flow for the first quarter is lower relative to results in prior periods primarily due to the completion of the Desert Sunlight and Topaz projects and the retention of projects on balance sheet in relation to the announced plan to pursue a joint YieldCo vehicle with SunPower. This is also expected to weigh on financial results in future quarters over the near-term. However, the Company believes this strategy will generate significant value for shareholders over the long-term.

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