First Solar, Inc. recently announced financial results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2016. Net sales for the fourth quarter were $480 million, a decrease of $208 million from the prior quarter due to the completion of multiple systems projects during the quarter, partially offset by higher module-only sales.
The Company reported a fourth quarter loss per share of $(6.92), compared to earnings per share of $1.63 in the prior quarter. The fourth quarter was impacted by pre-tax charges of $729 million, primarily related to previously announced restructuring actions. Restructuring related charges in the third quarter were $4 million. Fourth quarter non-GAAP earnings per share, adjusted for restructuring charges and a tax expense associated with a distribution of cash to the United States, were $1.24. Net income decreased versus the prior quarter as a result of lower net sales, higher restructuring charges and an increase in tax expense, partially offset by an increase in equity in earnings. During the fourth quarter, the Company completed the sale of its remaining interest in the Desert Stateline project and recognized $125 million of profit, net of tax, in equity in earnings.
Cash and marketable securities at the end of the fourth quarter decreased slightly to $2.0 billion from $2.1 billion in the prior quarter. The decrease was due to the repayment in full of the Company’s borrowing under its revolving credit facility, largely offset by cash from project sales. Cash flows from operations were $268 million in the fourth quarter. The approximately $280 million of proceeds received in the quarter from the sale of the remaining interest in the Desert Stateline project were treated as an investing cash flow.
“Despite the difficult restructuring decisions that we undertook in the fourth quarter, we ended the year with strong operational results,” said Mark Widmar, CEO of First Solar. “Our best line exited the quarter running above 16.9% conversion efficiency, and for the full year our fleet averaged 16.4% efficiency, an 80 basis point improvement over the prior year. From a financial perspective we delivered full year non-GAAP earnings per share of $5.17, exceeding our guidance for the year. We ended the year with $1.8 billion of net cash and are well positioned as we move forward with our Series 6 transition.”
The Company updated its 2017 revenue guidance, operating expenses and earnings per share as reflected in the following table. The revised net sales guidance incorporates the final structuring of the Moapa project sale, which allowed for full revenue recognition on the project, while the revised operating expenses guidance reflects the timing of certain restructuring charges that are now anticipated in 2017.
|2017 Guidance||Prior GAAP||Current GAAP||Prior Non-GAAP||Current Non-GAAP|
|Net Sales||$2.5B to $2.6B||$2.8B to $2.9B|
|Gross Margin %||12.5% to 14.5%||11% to 13%|
|Operating Expenses||$290M to $305M||$335M to $380M||$280M to $300M||Unchanged|
|Operating Income||$30M to $75M||($40M) to $25M||$40M to $80M||Unchanged|
|Earnings per Share||($0.10) to $0.45||($0.80) to ($0.05)||$0.00 to $0.50||Unchanged|
|Net Cash Balance||$1.4B to $1.6B||Unchanged|
|Operating Cash Flow1||$550M to $650M||$250M to $350M|
|Capital Expenditures||$525M to $625M||Unchanged|
|Shipments||2.4GW to 2.6GW||Unchanged|
|1.||Defined as cash and marketable securities less expected debt at the end of 2017|
For a reconciliation of the non-GAAP measures presented above to measures presented in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States (“GAAP”), see the tables below.
First Solar has scheduled a conference call for today, February 21, 2017 at 4:30 p.m. ET to discuss this announcement. A live webcast of this conference call is available at http://investor.firstsolar.com/events.cfm.
An audio replay of the conference call will also be available approximately two hours after the conclusion of the call. The audio replay will remain available until February 28, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. ET and can be accessed by dialing 888-203-1112 if you are calling from within the United States, or 719-457-0820 if you are calling from outside the United States, and entering the replay pass code 6887174. A replay of the webcast will be available on the Investors section of the Company’s website approximately two hours after the conclusion of the call and will remain available for approximately 90 calendar days.