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Published: Tuesday, 4/9/2013

First Solar surges as 2013 sales forecast exceeds estimates


NEW YORK -- First Solar Inc., the world’s largest thin-film solar manufacturer, saw its stock surge the most on record after forecasting 2013 sales that would exceed estimates.

The shares gained 46 percent to $39.35 at the close in New York, the biggest gain since the Tempe, Ariz.-based company’s initial public offering in 2006. The company started in Toledo before moving to Arizona.

First Solar anticipates sales of $3.8 billion to $4 billion this year as it begins to recognize revenue for its Desert Sunlight project in southern California, according to a statement today.

The company expects revenue of about $12 billion over the next three years, Chief Financial Officer Mark Widmar said at the company’s analyst meeting today. That may reassure analysts concerned the solar company is completing and selling large solar farms faster than it’s winning orders for new ones. About a third of that forecast is due to existing contracts and the rest will come from anticipated sales, he said.

A portion of this year’s sales will come from the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight solar farm the company is building in Southern California.

“We’ll recognize about a third of Desert Sunlight this year and two-thirds in 2014,” Mr. Widmar said.

Earnings will be $4 to $4.50 a share, exceeding the $3.57 average of 23 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Total shipments for the year will be 1.6 gigawatts to 1.8 gigawatts.

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