First Solar Whiffs Earnings $FSLR

First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR) is the largest solar module firm by market capitalization, the largest thin-film solar firm, and one of the largest solar firms by capacity and shipments, and certainly by cumulative profits. The company is in the cross hairs of every other solar firm and continues to set the bar in terms of solar panel value and corporate performance.

The firm just announced its fourth quarter and 2011 full-year financials. Here are the highlights and lowlights:

  • Given the adverse market conditions, First Solar is putting its Mesa, Arizona production facility on hold indefinitely.
  • Fourth-quarter production was 540 megawatts with net sales of $660 million, down from $1 billion last quarter.
  • Net sales were $2.8 billion for 2011.
  • First Solar is addressing a product failure issue which will cost hundreds of millions beyond its product warranty. The CEO, Mike Ahearn, referred to the product failure as a manufacturing excursion.
  • Average conversion efficiency improved by 0.6 percent over the course of the year to an average of 12.2 percent — an encouraging number.
  • In January of this year, the first 30-megawatt block of the Agua Caliente project was energized.
  • Average module manufacturing cost was reduced to $0.73 per watt, down $0.02 from the fourth quarter of 2010.
  • The company’s project pipeline is now 2.7 gigawatts AC.

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