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First Solar Profits Slip in Second Quarter as Sales Fall

First Solar Inc., the largest U.S. solar-panel manufacturer, reported lower second-quarter profit as sales slipped 46 percent. The shares slumped in late U.S. trading.

Net income fell to $33.6 million, or 37 cents a share, from $111 million, or $1.27, a year earlier, Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar said today in a statement. Excluding one-time items, per-share profit was 14 cents below the 53-cent average of 16 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales declined to $519.8 million from $957.3 million.

The company expects earnings of $3.75 to $4.25 a share this year, down from a May forecast of $4 to $4.50. Sales will be $3.6 billion to $3.8 billion. The shares declined 8.3 percent to $42.85 at 4:40 p.m. in New York, after the close of regular U.S. trading.

“It was a miss, clearly,” Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates Inc. in Houston, said today in an interview. “They missed our estimate pretty badly. It was really a top line miss.”

Chief Executive Officer Jim Hughes is seeking buyers for new power plants First Solar will build with its panels to replace the large projects it’s contracted to complete by 2015. The company isn’t signing enough new deals to keep its pipeline filled, said Dan Ries, an analyst at Maxim Group LLC in New York.

“We do not believe they are booking new business for late 2015 and 2016 at the pace needed to remain fully utilized,” Ries said yesterday in a note to clients. He estimated First Solar needs to sign contracts for at least 500 megawatts each quarter to keep factories running at capacity. “Thus far in 2013 it has not approached that pace.”

Power Plants

First Solar sold the 139-megawatt Campo Verde project in California in April and won approval in June to begin construction on a 50-megawatt plant in New Mexico that will deliver power to El Paso Electric Co. for 20 years.

First Solar has anticipated sales of $3.8 billion to $4 billion this year as it recognizes revenue from the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight project it’s expected to complete in Southern California in 2015.

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