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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Clues from 5N Plus conference call

Last quarter, First Solar (FSLR) was 75% of sales of 14 million (Canadian). This quarter, First Solar (FSLR) was 78% of sales of 18 million. So sales to FSLR were up 3 mil, or roughly 22%. First Solar consensus estimate for this quarter is up 17.5% Q/Q. Backlog at 5N Plus was 54 mil, which is where it was last quarter, though they referred to it as "up 19 mil", which I don't understand. The notes I have say it was 54 mil last quarter too. Backlog for 12 months has the same mix as the rest of the business -- if backlog is flat q/q, it indicates the moving average of First Solar's orders isn't changing, which it should be as they've got hypergrowth and its expected to continue.

They see no need to add new capacity having completed an addition recently. They referred to having adequate capacity for "growth, if any", which struck me as a warning. As they didn't give specific guidance for next quarter, there's no silver platter here of information. Margins moderated somewhat. They're slowing capacity additions. They're seeing some softness and starting to wonder if there will be growth.

First Solar's revenue ramp for next year is modeled to be pretty strong (100% y/y growth in Q1, levels out at 40% y/y in Q4) which doesn't seem consistent with this suppliers' tone. 5N Plus is a very small player and a very very small percentage of FSLR's sales and not necessarily directly indicative of a trend at their largest customer. But it might be.

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