First Solar forecasts up to 21 percent jump in 2014 revenue

Wed Mar 19, 2014 3:49pm EDT

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(Reuters) - First Solar Inc (FSLR.O) forecast a rise of up to 21 percent in revenue this year amid a broad recovery in the solar market, and said it was developing cost-effective solar plants with General Electric, sending its shares up as much as 21 percent.

First Solar's shares jumped to $69.40 in heavy afternoon trading, their highest in more than two years. About 22 million shares had changed hands by 1445 ET, making the company's stock among the most traded on the Nasdaq.

The new power plants will combine First Solar's panels with General Electric Co's (GE.N) transformers.

First Solar gets a bulk of its revenue from selling solar farms to utilities but has recently struggled to boost sales as the rate of new contracts from big U.S. power companies has slowed.

The company in February reported a lower-than-expected quarterly profit, hurt by irregular revenue from its solar projects.

Some analysts have, however, said the company will continue to benefit from utility demand.

Market commentator Jim Cramer said he was positive on the First Solar stock.

"I prefer First Solar because it is an actual technology company with real momentum, that is the play today," Cramer said on CNBC television on Wednesday.

First Solar is also trying to make a push into the residential rooftop market - currently dominated by SolarCity (SCTY.O) in the United States - and bought panel maker TetraSun last year.

TetraSun's solar panels are better suited for small rooftop systems than First Solar's thin-film panels.

"TetraSun should go into initial production later this year, positioning FSLR for the rooftop market," J.P. Morgan Securities analysts said in a note on Wednesday.

First Solar forecast revenue of $3.7 billion to $4.0 billion for 2014. Analysts on average were expecting $3.77 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

First Solar's profit forecast of $2.20-$2.60 per share, however, fell short of market estimates of $3.21 per share.

The company forecast much stronger-than-expected earnings for 2015. It expects to earn between $4.50 and $6.00 per share, compared with estimates of $3.68 per share.

(Reporting by Shubhankar Chakravorty and Swetha Gopinath in Bangalore; Editing by Don Sebastian and Maju Samuel)

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