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First Solar (FSLR) Q1 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

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FSLR earnings call for the period ending March 31, 2021.

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First Solar (FSLR -2.82%)
Q1 2021 Earnings Call
Apr 29, 2021, 4:30 p.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to First Solar's first-quarter 2021 earnings call. This call is being webcast live on the investors section of First Solar's website at [Operator instructions] I would now like to turn the call over to Mitch Ennis from First Solar investor relations. Mr.

Ennis, you may begin.

Mitch Ennis -- Investor Relations

Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us. Today, the company issued a press release announcing its first-quarter 2021 financial results. A copy of the press release and associated presentation are available on First Solar's website at

With me today are Mark Widmar, chief executive officer; and Alex Bradley, chief financial officer. Mark will begin by providing a business and technology update. Alex will then discuss our financial results for the quarter and provide updated guidance for 2021. Following their remarks, we'll open the call for questions.

Please note, this call will include forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from management's current expectations, including, among other risks and uncertainties, the severity and duration of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage you to review the safe harbor statements contained in today's press release and presentation for a more complete description. It is now my pleasure to introduce Mark Widmar, chief executive officer. Mark?

Mark Widmar -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Mitch. Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us today. I would like to start by thanking the First Solar team for delivering a solid first quarter. Our operational and financial results were strong and market demand for our Series 6 technology continues to be robust.

Operationally, Our second Series 6 factory in Malaysia exited its ramp period. Nameplate manufacturing capacity has increased to 7.9 gigawatts, and we are now consistently producing 455-watt modules. Commercially, we have secured 4.8 gigawatts of year-to-date net bookings, which include 2.9 gigawatts since the previous earnings call. Financially, We reported module segment gross margin, in line with our Q1 guidance and earnings per share of $1.96, which includes the completion of our U.S.

project development in North American O&M business sales. Overall, I am pleased with our strong start to the year, which has positioned us to deliver our annual earnings per share guidance. Turning to Slide 3. I will provide an update on our Series 6 capacity ramp and manufacturing performance.

Despite unplanned downtime caused by winter storms in Ohio and a temporary logistic driven bill of material shortage in Malaysia, along with planned downtime for throughput and technology upgrades, which combined adversely impact cost per watt by approximately $0.005. We delivered strong manufacturing results for the first quarter. On a fleetwide basis, in March and in April month to date, megawatts produced per day was 20.2 and 22, which represents a 17% and 27% increase compared to December 2020. Capacity utilization was 92% and 99%, despite being impacted by the aforementioned planned and unplanned downtime.

Manufacturing yields of 96.7% and 97.4% continues to show strength in light of the ramp of our second Series 6 factory in Malaysia, which achieved manufacturing yields of approximately 93% and 97%. As previously mentioned, We started commercial production of our 455-watt module at both our factories in Malaysia, and our fleetwide average watt per module improved to 442 and 445 watts. This manufacturing performance has been a key driver of our cost per watt reduction and gives us further confidence as we execute on our cost reduction road map. It is also important to put our recent performance into context.

Comparing to April of 2019 to April of 2021, month to date, our average watt per module has increased by 26 watts, megawatts produced per day has increased by 144%, and manufacturing yield has increased by 9 percentage points. I am pleased with what the team has accomplished. However, as we drive toward our midterm goal of 500-watt module, increasing throughput by 12% compared to our rerated capacity utilization baseline and increasing manufacturing yield to a midterm target of 98.5%. We have an opportunity to significantly reduce cost through disciplined manufacturing.

As a company, we have demonstrated disciplined execution and agility throughout the start-up and ramp of our Series 6 factory, including gathering new learnings from each factory rollout and utilizing them in the next. This culture of continuous improvement enables us to increase implementation velocity and reduce our ramp period. While it took our first Series 6 factory in Ohio approximately 22 months to achieve throughput in line with its nameplate entitlement, our newest factory exited its ramp period in only 1 month's time. The consistent improvement of our factory implementation process gives us operational confidence as we evaluate the potential for future capacity expansions.

We believe the combination of a differentiated technology and a balanced business model of growth, liquidity and profitability is a competitive differentiator or and will continue to enable our success. Three years ago, in April 2018, we commenced commercial production at our first Series 6 factory. And today, we have established a Series 6 factory footprint through which we have the potential to reach over 10 gigawatts of nameplate capacity based on our existing efficiency and throughput plans. Looking forward, strong demand for Series 6, a compelling technology road map, a strong balance sheet and a largely fixed operating expense cost structure are each catalyst as we evaluate the potential for future capacity expansions.

While we have made no such decision at this time, we are targeting to make a determination by our Q2 earnings call. From a shipping and logistics perspective, we have experienced by coastal port congestion in the United States, along with logistics challenges stemming from February's winter weather events in Southern United States. As a result, certain module deliveries planned for the first quarter were delayed. And given ongoing port congestions, we see potential for similar delays in the second quarter, which could result in delays in module revenue recognition.

While the cost per watt of PV modules has declined significantly in the past decade, sales rate has largely remained fixed on an absolute dollar basis. As a result, sales rate has become more meaningful percentage of the cost per watt. For example, in Q4 last year and Q1 of this year, sales freight and warranty reduced our module segment gross margin by 7% and 8%, respectively. Note, this highlights for markets with large recurring demand such as the U.S., India and Europe, the importance of having in-country or in-region manufacturing, which can significantly reduce the cost of sales trade.

As initially highlighted during our February earnings call, we continue to anticipate elevated shipping rates in 2021. We continue to partially mitigate the impact via the implementation of the following initiatives. Firstly, as we improve module efficiency, we benefit from an increase in watt per shipping container and a corresponding decline in sales freight per watt. Secondly, as we implement Series 6 Plus, we will reduce the profile of our frame and junction box by approximately 10%, enabling an increase in the number of modules per shipping container.

Thirdly, we intend to expand our distribution network footprint in the United States, which we anticipate will increase domestic inventory buffers, further reduce exposure to spot shipping rates and provide greater flexibility while reducing shipment timing risks for our customers. Implementation of these initiatives is important in order to help mitigate the effects of the challenging shipping market and achieve our 2021 cost per watt reduction objective. From a supply chain perspective, our strategy emphasizes long-term agreements that reduce exposure to spot pricing for commodities and raw materials. For example, our glass procurement strategy primarily relies on fixed-price contracts and partnerships with domestic suppliers.

This approach helps derisk the value of our contracted backlog and provides greater certainty that we'll be able to meet our expected profitability. Our approach to tellurium is similar. We secure our supply needs through multiyear fixed price agreements while striving to reduce cad tel usage per module through optimization of our vapor deposition process, while tellurium is a key component of our semiconductor material, it is a minor component of our cost per watt given our cad tel thin film is 3% the thickness of a human hair. Also, as part of our global high-value PV recycling program, we were able to establish a circular economy by recovering more than 90% of the semiconductor material for use in new First Solar modules.

Although such recycling, on a large scale is still anticipated to be many years out given the expected useful life of our modules. This has the potential to significantly reduce our ongoing tellurium and cadmium needs in the future, once power plants using First Solar modules reached the end of their useful life. Aluminum, which is used in the construction of our frame has recently experienced a price increase to above pre-pandemic levels. While the hedge structure we put in place has partially mitigated this impact, we anticipate some cost challenges related to aluminum during the year.

However, as part of our Series 6 Plus implementation, we anticipate reducing our frames profile in aluminum usage by 10%, which we expect will mitigate a portion of this cost increase. Finally, despite the previously mentioned delays of certain module deliveries in Q2 and a result of our continued manufacturing execution and aforementioned risk-reduced supply chain approach, we achieved our module segment gross margin target in Q1. Additionally, while cost uncertainties remain for certain bill of materials, we are tracking to achieve our targeted 11% cost per watt produced reduction between where we ended 2020 and expect to end 2021. While we intend to mitigate much of this impact related to the challenging shifting in market, our revised target cost per watt sold reduction is 6% to 7%.

Turning to Slide 4. In Q1, we completed the sale of our contracted Sun Streams 2 and uncontracted Sun Streams 4 and 5 projects to Longroad Energy. In April, we completed our uncontracted Sun Streams 3 project to Longroad as well. Across these 4 projects, Longroad intends to utilize approximately gigawatt of Series 6 modules, of which 785 megawatts represent new bookings since the last earnings call.

As it relates to our systems business in Japan, our existing team and competitively advantaged core project development skill set of siting, permitting, interconnection and securing long-term feed-in-tariff contracts has positioned us well in the market. Today, we have an approximately 320-megawatt systems backlog in Japan, which includes 55 megawatts of new bookings since the February earnings call. This backlog is a reflection of our recent success averaging approximately 100 megawatts per year of systems booking in Japan between 2018 and 2020. Looking forward, in the near term, we have an opportunity to add to this backlog with approximately 40 megawatts of Japan systems opportunities with feed-in tariff rights secured as they are pending satisfaction of certain permitting requirements.

Across the total portfolio, we have the potential to capture approximately $250 million of gross margin in the next 3 to 5 years. With an approximately $15 million per year overhead cost structure, we anticipate the sell-down of systems projects in Japan will contribute meaningfully to our midterm operating income. With an actual commitment to carbon neutrality and limited domestic source energy generation, the market fundamentals of Japan are favorable to the continuing growth of solar. We continue to build a pipeline of post feed-in-tariff opportunities that could target feed-in-premiums or corporate PPA opportunities as the market matures.

Before discussing our most recent bookings and pipeline opportunities, I would like to discuss several domestic and international policy updates. At the end of March, president Biden unveiled an infrastructure proposal that emphasize transit, revitalizing power grids and vastly expanding clean energy, while creating millions of jobs and positions the United States to outcompete China. Additionally, the plan is intended to revitalize domestic manufacturing, secure the U.S. supply chain, invest in R&D and train Americans for the jobs of the future.

This is the most far-reaching federal proposal for programs that curb greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. As the only alternative to crystalline silicon technology among the 10 largest solar module manufacturers globally, with a premier vertically integrated manufacturing process and a differentiated cad tel technology, we are uniquely positioned to support domestic energy independence in the United States and play a leading role in this plan. We are the largest solar module manufacturer in the United States and directly employ over 1,600 U.S.-based associates. Also, our domestic supply chain supports thousands of indirect jobs.

For example, we procure our float glass from an NSG facility approximately 10 miles from our factory in Perrysburg, which is the first new float glass line in the United States in 40 years. As a result of this investment, NSG has created long-term and high-quality manufacturing jobs and a domestic supply chain of their own. NSG soda ash, which is the primary material used in glass manufacturing, is secured from a supplier in Wyoming, which is the state that has historically been the largest producer of coal. Pace of innovation is a core to our success, which starts at our R&D lab facilities in Silicon Valley and Ohio.

As a reflection of this commitment since our IPO, we have cumulatively invested over $1.4 billion in research and development as the only thin film module manufacturer of scale with a manufacturing process that is handled entirely in each of our 6 factories, we own the end-to-end intellectual property and trade secrets for our cad tel technology. We believe the remaining 9 largest PV module manufacturers all utilize the same semiconductor material. Additionally, none of these manufacturers are fully integrated, relying on various degrees on third-party sourcing and the intellectual property of upstream polysilicon, ingot, wafer and cell manufacturers. While it's difficult to measure the value of the vast subsidies that the Chinese solar industry receives, these subsidies serve to artificially deflate our competitors' cost per watt, resulting in a marketplace that undervalues innovation and where technologies do not compete solely on their own merits.

Despite this apparent and outrageous lack of fair trade, the advantages of our vertically integrated manufacturing process and differentiated cad tel technology, leading to what we believe to be the lowest module manufacturing cost structure in the industry will continue to empower our success. With the Section 201 tariffs currently scheduled to expire in February of 2022, the Biden administration has a natural window to pursue policies that address the root cause of the problem, China's unfair trade practices. Accordingly, we continue to advocate for an industrial policy that identifies clean tech manufacturing as a national security strategic priority. To advance U.S.

energy independence, we believe that this type of policy would be promoted through incentives by -- for domestic manufacturing, continued investment in advanced technologies, closing by American loops and tariff reform. Turning to Slide 5. I'll next discuss our most recent bookings in greater detail. Leading corporate buyers have expressed concerns that due to the decentralized nature of the crystalline silicon supply chain.

They are unable to ensure that the solar modules and their systems from which they buy power were not manufacturing use alleged force labor. While our Series 6 energy, quality and environmental advantages are all key differentiators. Customers increasingly are ascribing value to our vertically integrated manufacturing process, supply chain transparency and 0 tolerance for the use of force labor in our module manufacturing process and supply chain. While the pricing environment remains competitive, these catalysts have created bookings momentum for deliveries in 2022, 2023 and beyond, with customers seeking to derisk their projects.

Accordingly, we are pleased with our strong year-to-date net bookings of 4.8 gigawatts, which includes 2.9 gigawatts since the February earnings call. After accounting for shipments of approximately 1.8 gigawatts during the first quarter, our future expected shipments, which extend into 2024 are 14.8 gigawatts. Included in our 1.8 gigawatts of Q1 shipments are approximately 0.2 gigawatts of Series 4 that was previously shipped to safe harbor the investment tax credit, but were transferred to a third party during the quarter in conjunction with the sale of our U.S. project development business.

Accordingly, our comparable Q1 shipment number is approximately 1.6 gigawatts. Including 4.8 gigawatts of year-to-date bookings and 0.4 gigawatts of upside volume related to previously announced purchase order from Intersect Power, we are largely sold out for 2021, have 6.4 gigawatts of potential deliveries in 2022 and 3 gigawatts across 2023 and 2024. Overall, the market remains competitive. We are pleased with the pricing levels that we are securing in 2022 and 2023 for our Series 6 Plus and CuRe products.

Although there remains uncontracted volume yet to be booked, the ASP across our aforementioned 6.4 gigawatts of volume for potential deliveries in 2022 is only 11% lower than the volume to be shipped in 2021. Slide 6. provides an updated view of our global potential bookings opportunities, which now total 16.5 gigawatts across early to late-stage opportunities through 2024. In terms of geographical breakdown, North America remains the region with the largest number of opportunities at 12.9 gigawatts.

Europe represents 1.2 gigawatts, India represents 1.2 gigawatts and South America represents 0.7 gigawatts, with the remainder in other geographies. As a subset of this opportunity is our mid- to late-stage bookings opportunity of 7.8 gigawatts, which reflects those opportunities we feel could book within the next 12 months. This subset includes approximately 5.4 gigawatts in North America, 1.2 gigawatts in India, 0.6 gigawatts in South America, 0.3 gigawatts in Europe and the remainder in other geographies. Note, this represents a decrease from our prior earnings call, which is largely due to our recent bookings momentum.

Finally note, included in the 7.8 gigawatts is a 1-gigawatt order for a U.S. customer that just hours ago, we booked. Including this booking in our contracted future shipments, it is just shy of 16 gigawatts. I will now provide an update on our technology road map.

As previously disclosed, we launched our Series 6 Plus program leveraging our existing Series 6 tool set, which increased our module form factor by approximately 2%, and our top production bin by approximately 10 watts. We first implemented this program at our newest Series 6 factory in Malaysia, which is now consistently producing 450-watt modules. And we remain on track for fleetwide implementation of Series 6 Plus for the fourth quarter of this year. As previously announced, our Series 6 CuRe modules offer an industry-leading 30-year 0.2% annual warranty degradation rate, which is up to 60% lower than conventional crystalline silicon product.

Additionally, we anticipate improving module efficiency, enabling a top production bin of 460- to 465-watt by the end of 2021. We anticipate this lower degradation rate, combined with improved temperature coefficient and superior spectral response, will build upon our existing energy advantages, especially in hot and humid climates. As previously indicated, CuRe significantly increases Series 6 competitiveness against bifacial modules. As a result of the aforementioned advantages as compared to a leading crystalline silicon bifacial module, we estimate that our CuRe module can produce up to 10% more life cycle kilowatt hours per kilowatt installed in certain climates with extreme heat and humidity.

Finally, we remain on track to implement CuRe and our lead line by the fourth quarter of this year, and fleetwide by the end of the first quarter of next year. As part of our R&D efforts, our CuRe program successfully removes copper from our cad tel vapor deposition process. This enhances the long-term stability of our CuRe modules. And based on initial performance in the field and an accelerated life test, demonstrates a near 0 annual degradation rate.

Given PV power plants have useful life approaching 40 years, a reduction in the annual derogation rate can contribute to meaningfully higher lifetime energy. CuRe, along with First Solar's other industry first and only product warranty that specifically covers power loss from cell cracking are recent examples of innovations that enhance our competitive position in the market. Finally, We are continuing to evaluate the potential to leverage the high-band gap advantages of cad tel in a tandem or multi-junction device. A tandem device has the potential to be a disruptive high efficiency, low cost with an advantaged energy generation profile, leveraging many of the innovations in our cad tel technology road map.

Additionally, we believe a thin film semiconductor will be the key differentiator to achieve the highest-performing tandem PV module. I'll now turn the call over to Alex, who will discuss our first-quarter financial results and 2021 guidance.

Alex Bradley -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Mark. Starting on Slide 7, I'll cover the income statement highlights for the first quarter. Net sales in Q1 were $803 million, an increase of $194 million compared to the prior quarter. The increase in net sales was primarily due to an increase in systems revenue driven by the sale of Sun Streams 2, 4 and 5 projects.

On a segment basis, our module segment revenue in Q1 was $535 million compared to $548 million in the prior quarter. And note, given the Sun Streams 2 project was in construction at the time of sale, the majority of the modules are recognized as revenue in the Systems segment. Gross margin was 23% in Q1 compared to 26% in Q4 of 2020. Systems segment gross margin was 31% in Q1 compared to 18% in Q4 of 2020.

And this increase was primarily driven by the aforementioned project sales in Q1. Despite the aforementioned delay in certain module deliveries as well as higher-than-expected logistics costs, our Q1 module segment gross margin was 19%, which was in line with the guidance we provided on the prior earnings call. Our module segment gross margin in Q1 includes $1 million of charges associated with the initial ramp from our new factory in Malaysia, and $4 million of underutilization expense stemming from planned downtime to throughput and technology upgrades. Ramp and underutilization expense, in total, reduced module segment gross margin by approximately 1%.

Also as a reminder, sales rate and warranty are included in our cost of sales and reduced module segment gross margin by 8 percentage points in Q1 compared to 7 and 6 percentage points in Q4 and Q3 of last year. Despite utilizing contracted routes, minimizing changes and using a distribution center, we incurred higher rates during Q1 due to constrained container availability in the global shipping market. SG&A and R&D expenses totaled $72 million in the first quarter, a decrease of approximately $13 million compared to the prior quarter. This decrease was primarily driven by a $6 million decrease in development project impairment charges between Q1 and Q4 of 2020 and lower share-based compensation expense in Q1, which was partially offset by $2 million in liquidated damages related to our U.S.

development asset in Q1. Production start-up, which is included in operating expenses totaled $11 million in the first quarter, a decrease of $5 million compared to the prior quarter. This decrease was driven by the start of production of our second Series 6 factory in Malaysia in February. We also acknowledge the widespread use of non-GAAP financial measures across financial markets, we recognize the certainty and comparability of consistently providing historical financials and guidance on a GAAP basis can bring to analysts and investors.

However, we also appreciate the need to understand noncash and certain onetime costs in calculating valuation metrics and will, therefore, as appropriate, continue to highlight many of these items. And in this context, Q1 operating income was $252 million, which included depreciation and amortization of $63 million, share-based compensation of $3 million ramp, underutilization and production start-up expense totaling $16 million and a gain on the sale of our U.S. project development in North American O&M businesses of $151 million. In Q1, we realized a $12 million gain on the sales of certain marketable securities associated with our end-of-life module collection and recycling program within the other income line on the P&L.

We recorded tax expense of $46 million in the first quarter compared to a tax benefit of $66 million in the prior quarter. And the increase in tax expense for Q1 is attributable to an increase in pre-tax income and a discrete tax benefit in Q4 of 2020 of $61 million associated with the closing of the statute of limitations on uncertain tax positions. Combination of the aforementioned items led to a first-quarter earnings per share of $1.96 compared to $1.08 in Q4 of 2020. Next, turning to Slide 8, I'll discuss select balance items and summary cash flow information.

Our cash, cash equivalents, marketable securities and restricted cash balance ended the quarter at $1.8 billion, which was largely unchanged compared to the prior quarter. Several factors impacted our quarter end cash balance. Firstly, while we completed the sale of our U.S. project development business and certain equipment on March 31, for an aggregate transaction price of $284 million, the proceeds from the transaction we received in early April.

Secondly, as previously mentioned, we sold certain restricted marketable securities associated with our end-of-life collection recycling program for total proceeds of $259 million. And while we intend to subsequently reinvest these proceeds, as of quarter end, they were included on the balance sheet as restricted cash. Thirdly, while we completed the sale of our Sun Streams 2, 4 and 5 projects during the quarter, due to the contemplated payment structure, the closing of these transactions did not have a significant impact on our quarter end cash balance. And finally, the proceeds received from the sale of our North American O&M business were offset by operating expenses and capital expenditures in Q1.

Total debt at the end of the first quarter was $257 million, a decrease of $22 million from the end of Q4. This decrease was driven by payment of a loan balance that matured during Q1 and was partially offset by loan drawdown for projects in Japan. And as a reminder, all of our outstanding debt continues to be project-related and will come off our balance sheet when the corresponding project is solved. Our net cash position, which includes cash, cash equivalents, restricted cash and marketable securities less debt, increased by approximately $25 million to $1.5 billion as a result of the aforementioned factors.

Net working capital in Q1, which includes noncurrent project assets and excludes cash and marketable securities, increased by $423 million compared to the prior quarter. This includes primarily driven by a $472 million increase in accounts receivable related to our U.S. project development business and our Sun Streams 2 sales, which was partially offset by a decrease in project assets. Net cash used by operating activities was $279 million in the first quarter, which includes the aforementioned increase in accounts receivable related to the payment timing of our U.S.

project development business and Sun Streams 2 sales. And finally, capital expenditures were $90 million in the first quarter compared to $89 million in the prior quarter. Continuing on to Slide 9, I'll next discuss 2021 guidance. Our Q1 earnings provide a positive start to the year, but we are leaving our EPS guidance unchanged the time being largely due to the following.

Firstly, while at the time of our prior earnings call, we anticipated a gain on the sale of our U.S. project development and North American O&M businesses of $135 million to $150 million. At closing, we recognized a pre-tax gain of $151 million. Secondly, the swift ramp of our second Series 6 factory in Malaysia, the factory quickly exited its ramp period.

As a result, we're anticipating a reduction in our full-year ramp expense, which we anticipate will be partially offset by an increase in production staffing expense. Thirdly, while we have strategies in place to mitigate the potential negative effects of higher costs, including sales rate and aluminum, assumptions about these costs in our mitigating strategies are affected in our 2021 guidance. Finally, February earnings call, we anticipated sales rate would reduce our full-year 2021 module segment gross margin by 7 to 8 percentage points. Whilst we continue to mitigate the effects of high shipping rates through improved efficiency, expansion of our distribution network and implementation of Series 6 Plus, we currently anticipate sales rate will reduce our 2021 module segment gross margin by 7.5 to 8.5 percentage points, 50-basis-point increase from the prior earnings call.

Also, while the hedge we put in place have mitigated some of the effects of higher commodity costs, uncertainty relating to future costs is considered in the low end of our guidance range. Whilst we're facing near-term cost challenges predominantly related to sales rate, our confidence related to our previously disclosed midterm cost per watt reduction road map remains unchanged. These factors in mind, we are updating our 2021 guidance as follows: Our module segment revenue guidance of $2.45 billion to $2.55 billion is unchanged; our updated net sales guidance is $2.85 million to $3.025 billion, which reflects a $25 million increase to the high end of our systems revenue guidance; our module segment gross margin guidance is $565 million to $615 million, which represents a $15 million and $10 million reduction, respectively, to the low and high end of our previous guidance range. This revision reflects our current expectations that relates to commodity and sales rate costs, which is partially offset by a reduction in ramp-related expense.

Note, as a result of these costs, we anticipate our Q4 module segment gross margin by approximately 25%. This anticipated module segment gross margin includes $10 million of underutilization expense related to factory upgrades which is expected to reduce module segment gross margin by approximately 2%. We also anticipate approximately 60% of our module segment gross revenue for the year will be recognized in the second half of the year. Our updated systems segment gross margin guidance is $130 million to $160 million, which reflects a $10 million increase to the high end of the range due to the potential recovery of historic systems costs, a portion of which we have already received.

I anticipate the majority of our remaining full-year systems segment revenue and gross margin will be recognized in the second half of the year. Our revised total gross margin guidance is $695 million to $775 million, which reflects a $15 million decrease to the low end of the range. SG&A and R&D expenses have been lowered by $5 million to a revised range of $265 million to $275 million. Production start-up expenses have increased by $5 million.

And as a result, our operating expense guidance range of $285 million to $300 million is unchanged. Operating income guidance of $545 million to $640 million is unchanged. That includes anticipated depreciation and amortization of $263 million, share-based compensation of $21 million, ramp, underutilization and production start-up expense totaling $61 million to $66 million, and a gain on the sale of our U.S. project development in North American O&M businesses of $151 million.

Our tax guidance of $100 million to $120 million is unchanged and includes approximately $34 million of expense related to the sales of our U.S. project development and North American O&M businesses. Earnings per share guidance of $4.05 to $4.75 remains unchanged. And our net cash, capital expenditures and shipment guidance also remains unchanged.

Turning to Slide 10, I'll summarize the key messages from our call today. Our financial perspective delivered strong Q1 EPS of $1.96, module segment gross margin in line with our Q1 guidance and reiterated our 2021 EPS guidance range of $4.05 to $4.75 per share. Operational, our second Series 6 factory exited its ramp period and our nameplate manufacturing capacity increased to 7.9 gigawatts. Additionally, as a result of continued execution, we're on track to achieve our target 11% cost per watt produced reduction between the end of the fourth quarters of 2020 and 2021.

And finally, Series 6 demand has been robust with 4.8 gigawatts of year-to-date net bookings, which includes 2.9 gigawatts since the previous earnings call. And with that, we conclude our prepared remarks and open the call for questions. Operator?

Questions & Answers:


[Operator instructions] The first question is from Philip Shen from ROTH Capital.

Philip Shen -- ROTH Capital Partners -- Analyst

The first one is on pricing. I know Mark you gave some detail on the decrease of 11% yera over year in '22 with the bookings you have. But crystalline silicon pricing is up meaningfully. Our checks are for pricing at the $0.35 to $0.38 level at the spot market.

And so how do you expect -- how is that impacting your discussions? How much of that can you benefit from? And then in terms of my second question here, as it relates to capacity, I was wondering if you could provide a little bit more color. India was on the road map for a bit. But with the COVID problems there, I can imagine India is off the table. So what variables are you using and thinking about as you consider locking in capacity expansion and a decision? Do you need more clarity from the Biden administration, for example? And I know it's going to come in Q2, but some additional color there would be fantastic.


Mark Widmar -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Phil, first off, on the pricing environment, clearly, we've seen pricing firm up. The -- as you look across the horizon, whether it's -- we don't have a lot of volume for the current year. But at the extent you had some available supply current, you'd see firmer pricing.

But even if you look across the horizon into '22, '23 and '24. The one limiting factor that -- relative to the number that you referenced is that there's -- in the U.S. in particular, the projects that people have bid are under significant pressure really from all dimensions. And ultimately, it still will come down to an affordability -- look, there's going to be a number of these projects that are just not going to happen.

Because when you look at the general cost pressures that they're seeing, just commodity cost pressures, right? I mean steel going up, aluminum going up, copper going up, you're seeing pretty much the entire balance of system, labor costs under pressure as well is putting strain on all these projects. And so one of the things we've got to be mindful of is we price across the horizon, it still has to fundamentally work within a customer's pro forma, their financials have to work. And so to try to go out and capture the highest potential price point. I'm not sure it's going to service the best when it comes to ensuring the viability of the project.

And so we've been trying to work with very capable, well-financed counterparties and having high certainty and quality of the execution of the projects, which inform our views around certainty of execution, which then we need to make sure that the economics around pricing work. The other thing I'd say that falls into the equation is the -- our confidence around our cost reduction road map. So as you look to our cost reduction road map, we're very happy with where we are and the opportunities that's still in front of us to drive costs down meaningfully lower than where it is right now. The 1 piece of the cost structure that is not as robust and ability to control that we're highlighting right now is sales rate.

But as we're looking forward into these new contracts, we're putting variable structures in there around sales rate, such that we're not being -- carrying that risk profile that the customer is going to share in that. And to the extent that the sales rate environment stays similar to where it is right now, then there's pass-through of that cost. So it's a slightly different dynamic than what we have had historically. So those variables all factor in and how we price.

And there is an opportunistic moment right now. We look to ourselves as establishing deep partnerships and relationships with our end customers, customers that we know have capabilities to execute and try to create enough a solution that works for both parties, right, in that regard. As it relates to the capacity expansion. Look, India is -- it's going through a horrible time right now.

I mean you see cases that are close to 40,000 a day, I mean, which is horrific. But I wouldn't -- I don't want you to think that because of that, I mean, we're confident that with the help that India will continue to receive from international partners in lines like the United States and others that this will be a difficult challenge they will have to get through, but they will get through it. And we're still evaluating India very significantly as a growth market for us. When we look at the technology and the competitiveness of the technology in India, it's ideally suited.

Our cad tel technology, especially with CuRe, an improved long-term degradation rate, hot humid climate, mainly fixed tilt structures, mainly monofacial, therefore, the true value uplift we get from CuRe against monofacial realizes itself in higher ASPs. The fact that the duties that have been imposed right now for imports, makes it even more critical for us to say how do we address that market, even the advanced or the approved list of module manufacturers, another constraint to access in the Indian market. So India is a very important market for us. U.S.

as well. U.S., we're very well positioned to -- we've got already, when we expanded in Ohio, we have an option on -- or actually we purchased additional land that would accommodate a larger facility. And the current statement of commitment that we're seeing from the administration is positive, but unfortunately, slow to act in some regards, so that is a little frustrating. But generally, we think there's a pretty good undertone and support for enabling our more capacity here in our most important market.

And as we highlighted in the call, the benefit of sales rate being close to market. You can take $0.01 or so of cost out from sales rate, right, to drive the cost down to be even more competitive. So that's all important. The other thing I would say to make sure it's clear, Phil, is that the other thing that we're doing is that the next factory or factories, right, will be larger than anything we have today.

And they will be our most advanced and competitively positioned product. And in some cases, we're also going to further enhance automation through the factory process. So it's going to be best product, highest-performing lowest cost that will be step function and prudent from where we are right now. And so that's taking a little bit more time validating and solidifying all that work to get comfortable with that.

We've been spending a lot of time, I wanted to make it clear in the call that we will be making a final decision by the July earnings call because I know it's something we continue to get asked questions around, we're pretty advanced in our evaluation. To the extent we make the decision to move forward. And you can hit all the criteria that we highlighted, then we'll make sure we make that announcement in July. If we choose not to do it, then we'll provide the direction that we're going to move forward in lieu with that.

So -- but yes, we're -- a lot of good work being done right now, but we want to make sure whatever we do is that we really create, again, a competitively advantaged disruptive product from where we are right now.

Alex Bradley -- Chief Financial Officer

So just one thing I'll add on the ASPs is that for the deals we're booking right now, either deals that we've likely been in discussion with customers on for many months. And I think the phenomenon you're seeing around is crystalline silicon pricing has come relatively recently. Whilst I'm sure many of our competitors were taking opportunity to enable on pricing that was perhaps put out as firm over a period of time. As Mark said, we look for long-term relationships with customers, we've chosen not to do that.

So we've held pricing despite what we're seeing in the market. I just want to make that point also.


Your next question is from Michael Weinstein of Credit Suisse Securities.

Michael Weinstein -- Credit Suisse Securities -- Analyst

Yes, thanks for the question. Do you have any potential plans to produce a residential product, given continuous efficiency improvements. I was thinking perhaps the tandem-junction product that you mentioned?

Mark Widmar -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Look, that product would be ideally suited for that type of application, right? So it's going to be highest efficiency, but it's best energy profile. And that would be -- we would target segments of the market that will pay a premium for the efficiency, and residential would be a primary market for that. And so as we get further along in commercializing that and scaling up that technology.

Then yes, I think it expands the market segment that today, we historically have not sold into. But there'll be other high-efficiency markets that we'll want to look to in terms of land constraint and other challenges that you have to deal with where a high-efficiency product could be advantageous. But yes, residential would be one.

Michael Weinstein -- Credit Suisse Securities -- Analyst

That's great. And just a follow-up on the last call -- the last couple of questions you asked. you answered about optionality in pricing. How about tariffs? How do you deal with the possibility that there might be additional tariffs or tariffs might be going away in your pricing going forward, like for you have for '22, '23, '24?

Mark Widmar -- Chief Executive Officer

Look, I've kind of alluded to this for a while. I mean we haven't really been -- the issue is tariffs on competition or tariffs on our own product. And that some it's just the tariffs that were imposed on crystalline silicon through the 201. We We've been -- unfortunately, after the first 16 months of the 201 being implemented, the tariffs went away because of the bifacial exemption.

And yes, and it's been reinstated, I guess, late last year. But most of what we had already sold really through from whatever was June of '19 until now, it hasn't really been influenced by tariffs, the 201 tariffs, because of the bifacial exemption and product coming in from Southeast Asia into the U.S. market without having to pay tariffs. And the fact that it was then reimposed late last year, it really didn't change much for us either because most of our 2021 volume was already sold through at that point in time.

We try to continue to manage and develop relationships and partnerships. And even when the 201 were -- 201 tariffs were first imposed, it wasn't like we took that as an opportunity to gauge our customers, but it doesn't serve us any good. We're still in the early innings of this industry and the relationships that we establish and the trust that we create with our partners will determine each of our success over the next decades to come. So yes, they could be influential.

We do believe that they're important and we also do believe that there's a need to have additional U.S. manufacturing capability and tariffs can help enable that. But it's not something we feel that we would try to take advantage of. As it relates to -- if our product were to be -- a product that we import from Southeast Asia manufacturer somehow would be subject to tariffs, and we have provisions within our contracts to try to address those types of events and circumstances, if they were to occur.

My assumption is your question was just really more related to tariffs relative to our crystalline silicon competitors. It informs a thought around pricing, but it doesn't -- we would never want to take it as an opportunity to gauge our customers.


Your next question is from J.B. Lowe with Citi.

J.B. Lowe -- Citi -- Analyst

Good afternoon, guys. I just wanted to circle back on the project economics comment that you made, Mark, because we're seeing the kind of the same commentary from the crystalline silicon guys that they would like to push pricing higher given all their cost issues on the polysilicon side, but they're getting pushed back from customers who -- the economics are pretty thin on their front. So they're not having success pushing through pricing increases. So there's that.

But I'm also wondering, is there anything in your backlog that you think is more at risk than anything else, just given that maybe some of the products that in your backlog have some of those spend margins? Just wondering what you're thinking about that.

Mark Widmar -- Chief Executive Officer

Look, again, when we price those modules, they all aligned up to our pro forma financials that would work for the end customer, right? Now to the extent that they have other price pressures that they're going to be seeing across their supply chain, chronic cost increases and things like that, yet potentially that drive thinner margins on their part. It could, it could happen. But as we said before, our pricing in -- for our contracts are firm obligations with security behind them. We have not seen that event happening relative to issues that our customers are incurring or there's any discussion in that regard.

And look, there's a -- what we try to do is we try to find customers that they value the certainty of working with First Solar, and also working with counterparties that we can trust as well and honoring against their commitments. And we've been pretty successful in doing that. These things could evolve differently. But what I would say right now is that when you try to think through a balanced relationship in trying to ensure certainty that certainty has to go away, it has to deliver against our commitments and our customers to accept their commitments that they've made as well when they contracted for the modules.


Your next question is from Moses Sutton of Barclays.

Moses Sutton -- Barclays -- Analyst

Thanks for taking our question. Of the 2.9 booked, 2.9 gigawatts since last call, which include the recently signed Sun Streams projects, how much of that 2.9 originated from pure third-party module pipeline versus something that was originally in systems?

Mark Widmar -- Chief Executive Officer

So look, the Sun Streams module volume, when you say systems, it was not part of the system sales. So I want to make sure that that's clear, right? So that was a module sale.

Moses Sutton -- Barclays -- Analyst

Main part of the systems pipeline, originally.

Mark Widmar -- Chief Executive Officer

Well really, Sun Streams 3, 4 and 5 was never part of the systems pipeline. Well, 3 was, but then it got terminated, right? But most of that volume is not part of the systems pipeline. But in terms of -- and Alex, you may know this one, in terms of the module volume that when we sold Square, how much of that was included in the 2.9?

Alex Bradley -- Chief Financial Officer

About three-quarters of a gig. 7.44. Yes. About three-quarters of a gigawatt.

Mark Widmar -- Chief Executive Officer

The 2.89 -- so the 2.9, 7 44. And Moses, I know it's not part of the actual number, but I also want to make sure, since you asked the question, the other gigawatt that we just booked today was not at all tied to the systems businesses. So if you look at it, we've got 3.9 gigawatts that were booked since the last earnings call and 700-some megawatts would have been tied to the systems business.

Moses Sutton -- Barclays -- Analyst

Got it. Got it. And then do you think your panel weight and hence the freight cost per watt are the same for current Series 6 before the new initiatives, then for an average or common mono PERC poly competitor, we've noted divergent claims made by some buyers.

Mark Widmar -- Chief Executive Officer

So repeat the question one more time. I understand the weight I got that, I make sure I understand your question.

Moses Sutton -- Barclays -- Analyst

So really, freight cost per watt, your panel versus an average mono PERC. I know they're all different. Would you say they compare or are they higher freight costs typically?

Mark Widmar -- Chief Executive Officer

What we're seeing right now because of the larger form factors, and we're seeing modules now that are like 3 square meters and the like, and they've been shipping them vertically. Those cost of sales rate for those products are going to be much higher than where we are right now. So if you looked at where we would have been against the, let's say, the 2-meter square form factor, which was the standard before now there's variance all over the place, we would have been slightly higher and mainly because of -- we weighed out on a container. So they would actually be able to get more modules on it to a container than we would, and they had a slightly higher efficiency.

But now if you go to bifacial glass class, larger form factor. What's actually happening is they're creating a disadvantage on freight cost for themselves.


Your next question is from Brian Lee with Goldman Sachs.

Brian Lee -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Hey guys. Good afternoon. Thanks for taking the question. I had two.

One on systems and just one on kind of the cost reduction path. First, on the systems, Mark, you said there's -- or Alex, you said there's $130 million to $160 million of gross profit this year in the guide. Just wondering after all the divestitures here recently, how much, if any, there's left to be monetized in 2022? And then if there's any Japan, in the near to medium term, you kind of you phrased it as like a three to five year opportunity. Just wondering if there's anything in the next 1 to 2 years there.

And then on the cost reduction side, you mentioned 11% reduction in ASPs for the 2022 bookings at the moment. Cost reductions have been at that level or below, it seems like. So just wondering, is there a scenario in which you kind of start to accelerate that and maintain a stable gross margin on modules given you're sort of starting already 11% in the whole, if you will, on the pricing side heading into next year? Thanks guys.

Alex Bradley -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. So on the system side, we guided to the $130 million to $160 million for the year, about $80 million recognized in Q1, you got about $60 million to the midpoint for the rest of the year. Most of that comes from Japan. You're going to see that happen in the second half of the year.

And then if you look through beyond that, you can think about there being a little bit of Japan nearer term, potentially more further out, but you're going to see Japan come in over the next 3 to 5 years. So you'll see an impact every year out of them. On the cost side, cost per watt, I think we've talked about an 11% cost per watt reduction on a produced basis for the year. So we see a production number that's matching what we see in terms of decline on ASP.

And obviously, that's -- on a percentage basis on a lower number, you're going to have a little bit of gross margin squeeze if you have the same percent reduction from an ASP and a cost per watt side. The other thing to bear in mind, and Mark might want to talk a little more on the cost. But I'll just say on the opex side. We talk a lot about gross margin.

I think it's important that we match that gross margin we'll continue to beat it. But one of the benefits of scale and one of the things we're talking about in terms of expansion and looking at manufacturing capacity is the ability to leverage against the fixed cost base as well. So we can -- even if we just maintain a matching number in terms of cost reduction relative to where the revenue decreases are, we can actually see a benefit coming through on the operating cost side. And we've done a pretty good job there.

I think if you look back over the last decade or so, bringing that cents per number down from -- in the 20 or so, 10 years ago, maybe over $0.10 per watt and 5 years ago. This year, if you look at it going to be somewhere around $0.35 per watt. And as we go forward, given that, that operating cost structure is largely fixed, even 90% fixed, you can see as we grow capacity that's going to come down. And so you can get either maintaining operating margins or expansion at the operating margin level.

So there's a lot of work still to do at the gross margin level, but I just want to make sure that comment is not missed. We look at it also for the day the operating margin level.

Mark Widmar -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. I think the other thing I'll say, Brian, is that there's a lot of things that are in the mix now that will help continue to drive down the cost per watt. I mean partly this year, as you got to remember, we're taking a little bit of a headwind around the impact of planned downtime as we've made a number of upgrades, right, for cure, in particular. So that's costing us about $0.005 a watt or so of that for the year.

Now going into next year, we don't have as significant upgrades. As we said, the currently envision relative to the technology road map that we need to roll out that would have as significant of a headwind given the downtime we had to take for this year. So that helps normalize itself. We also have -- the efficiency continues to improve from this point through the end, and we have an exit of around 465-watt and then we'll exit 2022.

I think it's a 480-watt or something like that, is what we previously indicated. So that helps drive, but then we've got a number of other bill of material initiatives that will drive improvement, and one of them is just even around our glass cost because there's different tiered pricing as we drive more volume across our contract for glass, we hit different tiers, which actually drive down pricing. So there's a number -- we used that bridge before. When you look at the throughput lever, where there's more throughput to go, there's more efficiency benefit.

And then we have the watts, the improvement that we'll make, and we don't have as much planned downtime at least as we currently envision it. So those will all help us manage across that horizon for 2022.


[Operator signoff]

Duration: 61 minutes

Call participants:

Mitch Ennis -- Investor Relations

Mark Widmar -- Chief Executive Officer

Alex Bradley -- Chief Financial Officer

Philip Shen -- ROTH Capital Partners -- Analyst

Michael Weinstein -- Credit Suisse Securities -- Analyst

J.B. Lowe -- Citi -- Analyst

Moses Sutton -- Barclays -- Analyst

Brian Lee -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

More FSLR analysis

All earnings call transcripts

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