Why First Solar Faces A Tough Future

First Solar (FSLR) is overvalued and faces a serious problem in the form of cheap polysilicon. Sound familiar? It should, it’s been the refrain from analysts since May. Today’s shot at First Solar comes from Gordon Johnson of Hapoalim Securities, on Tech Ticker.

Johnson says First Solar is a sell, with a target of $90. His argument trods well worn ground, but in case you missed it, here it is.

First Solar makes its panels out of cadmium telluride. Most of its competitors make panels out of polysilicon. Last summer, thanks to generous subsidies around the world, especially in Spain, the price of polysilicon shot up to $450 per kg. At such a high price, First Solar had an advantage on the competition.

However, the price has crashed to $60 per kg, and might fall even further, thus wiping out First Solar’s advantage. First Solar had told investors not to worry, that it could compete with lowered polysilicon prices. During it’s Q2 conference call, it signaled a slight change in its thinking saying it would give rebates to customers to lower the price of the panels. Another worry from Q2, the odd revenue recognition detailed by Barron’s, and refuted by e4.

Johnson likes Trina Solar (TSL) who are low cost leaders, and have worked through their inventory of overpriced polysilicon, and are now buying the cheap stuff, which ought to boost margins. He’s cautious of Yingli (YGE) because they’ve yet to write down inventory, and Suntech (STP) because it outsources manufacturing of wafers, is locked into higher polysilicon prices, and has accounting practices that are redflags.

In a separate segment, which is included below, Johnson also explains why solar stocks aren’t taking off along with the price of oil. Here’s a hint: Cheap natural gas.

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