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First Solar’s Strong Balance Sheet Sets It Apart from Peers

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Oct. 2 2017, Published 5:12 p.m. ET

Debt profile

As of December 31, 2016, First Solar (FSLR) had total debt of $188.4 million, lower than its debt of $289 million at the end of 2015. The company’s debt is denominated in various currencies, including the US dollar, Malaysian ringgit, and euros.

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Credit metrics

With a net worth of over $5 billion and $555.8 million in EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization) in fiscal 2016, First Solar’s credit metrics are strong. Its LTM (last-12-month) total debt-to-EBITDA ratio is 1.2. Yingli Solar’s (YGE) LTM ratio is 42.2.

Its debt-to-equity ratio, also known as the “gearing ratio,” is ~0.04. Solar (TAN) power peer SunPower (SPWR) has a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.9, while JA Solar’s (JASO) is 0.95.

Liquidity

As of December 31, 2016, First Solar had sufficient liquidity. The company had around $2.0 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities. In 2015, the figure was $1.8 billion. According to First Solar’s annual report, it rose primarily due to “proceeds from the sale of certain equity method investments and cash generated from operating activities, partially offset by expenditures for property, plant, and equipment.”

Of its cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities in 2015 and 2016, $1.5 billion and $1.2 billion was held in foreign accounts, respectively. In 2016, the cash was held in US dollars, Malaysian ringgit, and euros.

First Solar has reported that its credit available under its revolving credit facilities is enough to meet over 12 months’ worth of working capital, capital expenditure, and systems project investments. Continue to the next part to learn about First Solar’s valuation.

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