First Solar (FSLR) is trading near its October highs following its big Q3 beat.
While systems sales are taking center stage in Q3 report, the performance of First Solar's module ops also improved. Module production (exc. German plant closures) rose 10% Q/Q and 8% Y/Y to 426MW, cost/watt fell $0.08 Q/Q and Y/Y to $0.59, and conversion efficiency, which has historically trailed that of non-thin-film module vendors, rose 30 bps Q/Q and 60 bps Y/Y to 13.3%.
Capacity utilization was 80% in Q3, +500 bps Q/Q but -600 bps Y/Y. The company's 2013 module-only shipment guidance range has been favorably narrowed to 400MW-500MW from 300MW-500MW.
On the other hand, First Solar is now guiding for 2013 systems shipments of 1.2GW, down from a prior 1.3GW; that's the main reason for the revenue guidance cut. 50% of Desert Sunlight revenue is now set to be recognized this year, up from ~33%.
First Solar ended Q3 with $1.5B in cash/investments, up from $1.3B at the end of Q2. Opex rose 19% Y/Y, less than rev. growth of 51%.