First Solar closes 2018 with net profit

US thin-film module manufacturer and project developer First Solar Inc. has presented its figures for the fourth quarter and the full year 2018. The company generated net sales of $2.24 billion last year, 23.8 percent less than in 2017 ($2.94 billion). At $392.2 million, gross profit was also lower than in the previous year ($548.9 million), by 28.5 percent. Operating profit of $40.1 million was 77.5 percent below the $177.9 million achieved in 2017. The bottom line, however, is that First Solar posted a net profit of $144.3 million, or $1.38 per share, in 2018, after a loss of $165.6 million, or $1.59 per share, in 2017.
The Company attributes the decrease in gross profit primarily »higher under-utilization and certain other charges« related to the ramp-up of production for its »Series 6« modules. First Solar produced a total of 2.7 GW of modules in 2018, 18 percent less than a year earlier. However, the target for 2019 is an increase of around 100 percent with 5.2 to 5.5 GW annual production (according to the company report; 5.4 to 5.6 GW according to the press release). This includes approximately 2 GW of Series 4 modules.
As of December 31, 2018, the company reported that it had contracts with customers for the purchase of 8.9 GW of modules at an aggregated total price of $3.2 billion, i.e. $0.36 per watt. The corresponding revenues are expected through 2022. In addition, First Solar has entered into O&M contracts for 8.9 GW and expects average revenues of $500 million annually over a period of 11.5 years from non-cancellable terms of these contracts.

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