What's Next for First Solar?

Earnings season has begun, and what a start it's been for First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR  ) , shaking up the Street with a surprise early release. Fellow Fool Travis Hoium gave us the lowdown on the roller-coaster ride First Solar has been taking us on through the past week. Now let's take a deeper look at the company's fundamentals.

Stock-price circus
The past week has been like a yo-yo for First Solar. The stock took a stupendous 25% crash after CEO Rob Gillette was ousted. Next, management implemented damage-control measures with an emergency earnings release showing that the company's revenues jumped by a staggering 26% and hit $1.01 billion. It seems that the company's expansion moves in international markets and its cost-efficiency paid off. The year has been glum so far for the industry in general, and I have to say that First Solar did pretty well to report impressive figures.

So what's next?
But now what matters is the road ahead. It seems as if the slowdown the industry faces because of subsidy cuts in key markets such as Germany and Italy is here to stay, as feed-in tariffs for solar companies in Germany are to be slashed by another 15% next year. Chinese peers such as Yingli Green Energy (NYSE: YGE  ) and ReneSola (NYSE: SOL  ) are chipping away at its cost-advantage as they look to survive after a scandalous year, dumping their panels at low prices. Further, they've been helped by dropping polysilicon prices.

The company has lowered its full-year revenue and profit guidance as it looks for a change in strategy to withstand the crash in prices and demand for solar products. It's altering its model as it looks to reduce dependence on subsidy-driven markets -- quite an intelligent move when we consider that concentration in such markets spelled doom for solar companies this year.

A smart ouster
Although the ouster of Gillette and his ridiculous $30 million to $40 million payoff sent the stock south, at least getting rid of him in hindsight could turn out to be a smart move, as he had doubled the company's production capacity at a time when the industry suffered because of the subsidy withdrawals -- not a smart business move. Interim CEO Michael Ahearn leads the strategic change by pledging to expand sales globally and put a cap on capital expenditures.

The Foolish takeaway
At the moment, nothing concrete can be said about where the stock is heading. However, First Solar is one of the most credible companies in the industry, and its upcoming revamped business model does make sense. It may be losing its cost-competitiveness just a bit, but given its large production capacity (which may turn out to be a boon) and presence in global markets, it certainly has what it takes to jump again.

To stay on top of the latest developments at First Solar, add it to My Watchlist.

Fool contributor Harsh Chauhan owns none of the stocks mentioned in the article. The Motley Fool owns, and Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying, shares of First Solar. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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