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First Solar’s strong balance sheet sets it apart from its peers

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Debt profile

As of December 31, 2014, First Solar (FSLR) had total debt of $216.9 million against $223.3 million at the end of fiscal 2013. The company’s debt is denominated in various currencies, including US dollars, Malaysian ringgit, and euros. Much of the debt is on the books of FS Malaysia, First Solar’s (FSLR) wholly owned subsidiary. The company is in compliance with all the covenants.

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Credit metrics

With over $5 billion in net worth and $669.3 million in EBITDA[1. Earnings before interest, tax, debt, and amortization] for fiscal 2014, First Solar’s credit metrics are strong. Its total debt to fiscal 2014 EBITDA ratio is just 0.32, meaning the company’s total debt, as of December 31, 2014, is just 32% of its EBITDA in fiscal 2014. Its debt-to-equity, which is another popular measure—also known as the “gearing ratio”—is less than 0.05. This sets First Solar apart from leveraged solar industry (TAN) peers, including SunEdison (SUNE), Yingli Green Energy (YGE), and SolarCity (SCTY).

Liquidity

First Solar had ample liquidity as of December 31, 2014. The company had around $2.0 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities. Out of these, $407 million was restricted against liabilities. The majority of this cash is held in foreign accounts in US dollars and euros. Plus, First Solar has access to $450 million in unused credit facilities. The company reported that its available liquidity is enough to cover over 12 months worth of working capital requirements.

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