Best stock to invest in – What Just Happened: First Solar’s Strategy Shifts

Best stock to invest in

2016 was a wild year and not just for solar and after decades of
reliance on government incentives, subsidies and mandates the
global solar industry may be inured to unpredictability but the
industry as a whole should be wary of global trends.  Solar
PV expert Paula Mints looked at a number of the developments for
solar companies in the December edition of  SPV Market Research’s Solar
Flare.  Adapted for, this series of
articles is reprinted with permission.

Though First Solar (FSLR)
indicated recently that 2017 would be a transition year there is no
indication from the company’s behavior in 2016 that it knows where
it is going.

The company has been restructuring since Q1 2016. Early in the year
it pulled the plug on TetraSun, shifted focus from its EPC and its
O&M businesses to a new
strategic focus on module sales
and community solar
deployment. Recently it leapfrogged over its Series 5 module, which
it showcased at the 2016 Solar Power International Trade Show,
scrapping it to instead launch its Series 6 module. The company also
an-nounced 1600 layoffs.

What this means for solar: Pardon the pun but First Solar
would not be the first solar company to fail to read the market and
stumble strategically.

It is easy to step back and suggest that a focus on module sales in
an industry with historically painful price pressure is a mistake
and to applaud an implicit admission that expansion via acquisition
into crystalline may have been an unnecessary loss of focus from its
core technology, CdTe.
The global solar industry is brutally competitive internally – and
this is before the competitive effect of cheap natural gas is thrown
into the mix. Solar industry participants should hope that this
industry pioneer and largest thin film manufacturer globally rights
the ship.

Previous articles:

Paula Mints is founder of SPV Market Research, a
classic solar market research practice focused on gathering data
through primary research and providing analyses of the global
solar industry.  You can find her on T
witter @PaulaMints1
and read
her blog here

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