First Solar Posts First Loss Since 2012 as Yieldco Reduces Sales

First Solar Inc., the biggest U.S. solar- panel maker, reported its first loss in three years as it prepares to create a new company to operate some of its completed power plants.

The net loss was $62.3 million, or 62 cents a share, compared with profit of $112 million, or $1.10 a share, a year earlier, Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar said in a statement Thursday. Sales slipped to $469 million from $950 million.

First Solar and rival SunPower Corp. in February said they are jointly forming a so-called yieldco, a growing trend in the clean-energy industry. These ventures own and operate power plants, generating long-term, steady revenue from selling electricity. That means First Solar will transfer some of its projects to the new venture instead of selling them as it has in the past, eating into revenue.

First Solar’s shift to a loss comes as it “slows sales to build a project pipeline for its planned yieldco with SunPower,” James Evans, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, wrote in a research note Monday.

First Solar and SunPower plan sell shares in the venture through an initial public offering and haven’t provided details on when that will occur. The yieldco will be called 8point3 Energy Partners LP, referring to the 8.3 minutes it takes for light to travel from the sun to the Earth. SunPower, the second- biggest U.S. solar manufacturer, is also releasing its results Thursday.

First Solar’s earnings in the quarter were also affected by the completion last year of the Desert Sunlight and Topaz power plants in California. The two projects each have 550 megawatts of capacity, tied for the largest in operation, and accounted for a significant portion of the company’s shipments while they were under construction.

First Solar fell 3.7 percent to $59.67 at the close in New York. The shares have gained 20 percent since the yieldco plan was announced on Feb. 23.

Copyright 2015 Bloomberg

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