The stock of First Solar (FSLR 0.38%) was flaming out on Wednesday, down 9.8% as of 11:45 a.m. EST, and you can blame Barclays Capital.
This morning, the British investment bank threw major shade at this solar stock. Once bullish on the shares, Barclays reversed course today and downgraded First Solar two notches -- all the way from overweight to underweight, assigning a target price of $49.
What prompted the downgrade? To date, First Solar has demonstrated "an impressive ability" to book shipments of its Series 6 photovoltaic modules years ahead, Barclays said. Regardless, a review of industry data on 5,000 solar projects in the works or already completed tells the analyst that First Solar's business is now "in trouble."
Specifically, Barclays says the company's systems business has lost 80% of its U.S. market share, TheFly.com reports, as competitors NextEra Energy, Electricite de France, and Invenergy steal away First Solar's utility-scale business. Although First Solar's module production business appears to be doing fine, the analyst thinks this "rapidly declining share" of the solar project market is reason enough to downgrade the stock over the near and medium term.
What's bad news for First Solar, however, isn't necessarily bad news for the entire U.S. solar industry -- much less renewable energy stocks in general. In fact, Barclays took pains to explain that "this is not a bear call on U.S. solar, but simply a shift in who's winning within the industry right now."
And right now, that's not First Solar.