Sector Snap: Solar Companies Decline


Solar companies took a hit Tuesday after First Solar fell short of Wall Street expectations for the first quarter and announced job cuts in North America.

First Solar, which had offered a very rosy outlook just last month, led the way down, declining nearly 10 percent after hitting new highs for the year on Monday before it released earnings.

Late Monday, First Solar posted adjusted earnings of 69 cents per share on revenue of $755.2 million. Analysts polled by FactSet predicted earnings of 75 cents per share on revenue of $724.6 million.

All solar companies have been hammered by a steep drop in prices after an aggressive push by China into the market, even as hamstrung governments in Europe cut back on subsidies.

While there were hints that the glut in solar products would decline and stabilize prices – particularly after China’s Suntech, one of the world’s biggest solar panel manufacturers, defaulted on a $541 million bond payment – Wall Street was surprised by the bullish outlook from First Solar on April 9.

Monday’s report from First Solar suggests that a bigger shakeout is possible.

During its earnings call, First Solar said that it plans to eliminate approximately 150 jobs, mostly in North America. The cuts are expected to come over the next couple of weeks, and result in annual savings of about $30 million.

First Solar Inc. has more than 5,600 employees worldwide, according to its website.

The company’s stock dropped $4.52, to $43.17, in midday trading. Over the past year, the shares have traded between $11.43 and $47.78. The stock is up 54.5 percent for the year-to-date.

Here’s how some other solar companies are trading:

LDK Solar Co. fell 5 cents, or 3.9 percent, to $1.25.

Trina Solar Ltd. dropped 13 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $4.87.

Suntech Power Holdings Co. declined 2 cents, or 2.7 percent, to 59 cents.

JA Solar Holdings Co. dropped 17 cents, or 3.3 percent, to $4.95.

Canadian Solar Inc. fell 26 cents, or 4.5 percent, to $5.54.