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Published: Wednesday, 8/1/2007

First Solar s profit beats expectations

First Solar Inc. issued a second-quarter financial report that beat analysts expectations yesterday, but not before worried investors hammered its high-flying stock.

Excluding a one-time tax gain, the Phoenix-based firm made $5.2 million, or 7 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had expected 3 cents a share.

Sales nearly tripled to $77.2 million from $27.9 million in the second quarter of 2006.

The profit picture was much improved over the prior-year period, when First Solar lost $2.5 million.

The firm is a manufacturer of solar panels, with its sole North America factory and research operations in Perrysburg Township. Since an initial public offering last November, its share price has more than quadrupled on investor excitement that it could be the first producer of solar panels to make solar-energy farms commercially viable without government subsidies.

Even so, its stock is trading at lofty levels compared with its earnings. Experts say that, in such an environment, fear can quickly send a stuck tumbling.

The firm waited until the end of regular trading on U.S. stock markets to release the results. Its shares fell $7.71, or 6 percent, to $112.57 by the 4 p.m. close of regular trading on the Nasdaq market.

The company, which was an outgrowth of a Toledo company established in the 1980s, earned $4 million last year for the first annual profit in its 20-year history. So far this year, the company recorded profits of $49.4 million, including a $39.2 million tax gain in the just-concluded quarter.

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