First Solar Profit Falls on Completing Plant Construction

First Solar Inc., the world’s biggest thin-film solar manufacturer, said profit fell in the third quarter as it completed or slowed construction on some solar farms it’s building.

Net income was $87.9 million, or $1 a share, compared with $196.5 million, or $2.25, a year earlier, the Tempe, Arizona-based company said today in a statement. The company was expected to earn 87 cents, the average of 15 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales fell to $839.1 million from $1 billion.

First Solar Chairman Mike Ahearn a year ago ousted Chief Executive Officer Rob Gillette and began a restructuring that shifted the company’s focus to building power plants with its panels instead of competing with money-losing Chinese manufacturers in an over-supplied market. In the first quarter, First Solar’s revenue from developing power plants exceeded for the first time panel sales.

First Solar lowered its 2012 sales forecast to $3.5 billion to $3.8 billion, from $3.6 billion to $3.9 billion, and raised the low end of its profit forecast to $4.40 an adjusted share to $4.70 a share, from $4.20 to $4.70 a share, excluding restructuring charges.

Chief Executive Officer Jim Hughes, hired in May, is seeking to expand in new countries. The government of Dubai selected the company this month to build the country’s first solar farm, a 13-megawatt project that’s expected to be the initial phase of a $3.3 billion initiative. First Solar is seeking to supply 20 percent of India’s panel market and agreed in June to build Australia’s two biggest photovoltaic projects.

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