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First Solar Falls on Unexpected Loss, Lower Sales Forecast

First Solar Inc., the world’s largest maker of thin-film solar panels, fell the most in more than two months after reporting an unexpected loss and reducing sales guidance for the year.

First Solar dropped 12 percent to $32.30 at the close in New York, the biggest drop since Dec. 14. Shares of the Tempe, Arizona-based panel manufacturer have lost 4.3 percent this year.

The company reported a net loss of $413 million, or $4.74 a share, compared with net income of $155.9 million, or $1.80 a share, a year earlier, according to a statement after the close of trading yesterday. First Solar was expected to earn $1.02 a share, the average of 18 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

“The fourth quarter was a washout,” Hari Chandra Polavarapu, an analyst at Auriga USA LLC in New York, said today in a note to clients. He has a “buy” rating on the stock. “First Solar is walking away from below-cost module competition from China even as it makes forays into non-subsidized markets that are yet to take hold.”

The company wrote down the value of goodwill by $393 million, and spent $60 million for restructuring costs and $164 million for warranties for flawed equipment. Excluding those items, fourth-quarter profit was $1.26 per share.

First Solar reduced its 2012 revenue forecast to $3.5 billion to $3.8 billion, compared with a December forecast of $3.7 billion to $4 billion. Their per-share profit forecast was unchanged at $3.75 to $4.25, excluding any additional restructuring expenses.

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