Editors Note:

First Solar beat on earnings but missed on revenue and a sudden departure of the CEO called future results into question. Changing government regulations also clouded the outlook.


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FSLR - First Solar - Company Description

First Solar provided solar energy solutions worldwide through two segments. Those are components and systems. The component segment produces the actual solar modules that convert sunlight into energy. The systems segment produces the infrastructure to combine those panels into working systems that are sold to corporations, governments and utility companies.

The company reported earnings of $1.06 that beat estimates for 93 cents. Revenue of $848 million rose 3% but missed estimates for $958 million by a mile. The company blamed the shift to a lower priced module for the decline in revenue. Another factor was the decision by the government to extend the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) another five-years on solar installations. This caused some companies to postpone plans that were being rushed to take advantage of the ITC. Now they have time to think the plans through and make calm decisions. The number of urgent sales declined.

The company refined its guidance positively to revenue in the range of $3.8-$4.0 billion and earnings up from $4.00-$4.50 to $4.10-$4.50. The minor increase in guidance did not excite investors.

With the earnings the company also announced CEO Jim Hughes had resigned and CFO Alexander Bradley would be his interim replacement. Hughes had successfully rescued First Solar from a crisis in 2012 when polysilicon prices were crashing Today the company's panels are close to multi-crystalline. The sudden departure of a hero caused some investors to flee the stock.

Earnings August 2nd.

Shares have fallen significantly since the Thursday earnings but show no indications the drop is slowing. The entire solar sector is in distress since the SunEdison (SUNE) filed bankruptcy a couple weeks ago.

I expect the decline to continue with initial support at $52.50 but longer term support well below at $40. The transformational issues of the ITC extension and the CEO resignation could linger for several weeks.

Buy June $52.50 put, currently $2.16, no initial stop loss.