First Solar, Inc. :FSLR-US: Earnings Analysis: Q2, 2017 By the Numbers : August 1, 2017

First Solar, Inc. reports financial results for the quarter ended June 30, 2017.

We analyze the earnings along side the following peers of First Solar, Inc. – General Electric Company and REC Silicon ASA Unsponsored ADR (GE-US and RNWEY-US) that have also reported for this period.


  • Summary numbers: Revenues of USD 623.33 million, Net Earnings of USD 51.96 million.
  • Gross margins narrowed from 20.46% to 17.79% compared to the same period last year, operating (EBITDA) margins now 9.79% from 16.17%.
  • Year-on-year change in operating cash flow of -122.92% is about the same as the change in earnings, likely no significant movement in accruals or reserves.
  • Earnings growth due to contribution of one-time items.

The table below shows the preliminary results and recent trends for key metrics such as revenues and net income growth:

2017-06-30 2017-03-31 2016-12-31 2016-09-30 2016-06-30
Relevant Numbers (Quarterly)
Revenues (mil) 623.33 891.79 480.43 688.03 934.38
Revenue Growth (%YOY) -33.29 5.1 -49.02 -45.82 4.26
Earnings (mil) 51.96 9.13 -719.86 154.15 13.41
Earnings Growth (%YOY) 287.55 -94.65 -538.58 -55.87 -85.81
Net Margin (%) 8.34 1.02 -149.84 22.4 1.43
EPS 0.5 0.09 -6.92 1.49 0.13
Return on Equity (%) 0.99 0.17 -12.9 2.62 0.23
Return on Assets (%) 3.13 0.54 -38.51 7.89 0.71

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Market Share Versus Profits

Revenues History
Earnings History

FSLR-US‘s change in revenue this period compared to the same period last year of -33.29% is almost the same as its change in earnings, and is about average among the announced results thus far in its peer group, suggesting that FSLR-US is holding onto its market share. Also, for comparison purposes, revenues changed by -30.10% and earnings by 469.21% compared to the immediate last period.

Revenues Growth Versus Earnings Growth

Quadrant label definitions. Hover to know more

Leader, Earnings Focus, Laggard, Revenues Focus

Earnings Growth Analysis

The company’s earnings rose year-on-year. But this growth has not come as a result of improvement in gross margins or any cost control activities in its operations. Gross margins went from 17.79% to 20.46% for the same period last year, while operating margins (EBITDA margins) went from 9.79% to 16.17% over the same time frame.

Gross Margin Versus EBITDA Margin

Quadrant label definitions. Hover to know more

Differentiated; Low Cost, Commodity; Low Cost, Commodity; High Cost, Differentiated; High Cost

Gross Margin Trend

Companies sometimes sacrifice improvements in revenues and margins in order to extend friendlier terms to customers and vendors. Capital Cube probes for such activity by comparing the changes in gross margins with any changes in working capital. If the gross margins improved without a worsening of working capital, it is possible that the company’s performance is a result of truly delivering in the marketplace and not simply an accounting prop-up using the balance sheet.

Gross Margin History
Working Capital Days History

FSLR-US‘s decline in gross margins has not produced any significant offsetting improvement in its working capital . This leads Capital Cube to conclude that the decline in gross margins are likely from operating issues and not trade-offs with the balance sheet. Working capital days are currently 416.09 days, compared to last year’s level of 199.21 days.

Gross Margin Versus Working Capital Days

Quadrant label definitions. Hover to know more

Customer Financed, Cash Starved, Supplier Financed, Cash Rich

Cash Versus Earnings – Sustainable Performance?

It is important to examine a company�s cash versus earnings numbers to gauge whether its performance is sustainable.

FSLR-US‘s change in operating cash flow of -122.92% compared to the same period last year is about the same as its change in earnings this period. Additionally, this change in operating cash flow is about average among its peer group. This suggests that the company did not use accruals or reserves to manage earnings this period, and that, all else being equal, the earnings number is sustainable.

Operating Cash Flow Growth Versus Earnings Growth

Quadrant label definitions. Hover to know more

Cash Flow based Earnings, Likely Non-cash Earnings, Low Cash Flow Base, Likely Undeclared Earnings


The company’s operating (EBIT) margins contracted from 10.10% to 5.17%. In spite of this, the company’s earnings rose. This was influenced primarily by one-time items, which improved pretax margins from 1.31% to 1.60%.

EBIT Margin Versus PreTax Margin

Quadrant label definitions. Hover to know more

Operation driven Earnings, One-time Favorables, Low Earnings Base, One-time Unfavorables
EBIT Margin History
PreTax Margin History

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Company Profile

First Solar, Inc. is a solar energy solutions company, which engages in the designing, manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of photovoltaic solar power systems and solar modules. It operates through the Components and Systems segments. The Components segment involves in the design, manufacture, and sale of cadmium telluride solar modules, which convert sunlight into electricity. The Systems segment offers development, construction, operation, and maintenance of photovoltaic solar power systems. The company was founded by Michael J. Ahearn in 1999 and is headquartered in Tempe, AZ.

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