UPDATE 1-SunEdison loss bigger than expected as solar plant sales fall
* Weak solar panel prices and chip prices hurt results
* First-quarter adjusted loss $0.25/shr vs est. 0.17/shr
* Adjusted revenue $577.6 million vs est. $593.9 million
* To retain higher volume of solar plants than initially planned (Adds analyst estimates, backgroud, details from statement)
May 8 (Reuters) - SunEdison Inc reported a larger-than-expected loss due to weak solar panel prices and higher costs associated with keeping rather than selling its solar power plants.
SunEdison plans to create a public company that will own and operate the plants, but in the process is sacrificing near-term revenue for long-term profit.
The new company will hold projects that have long-term agreements with power producers, a move SunEdison says will guarantee stable cash flow and lower the cost of financing new projects.
SunEdison is now looking retain 440-570 megawatts (MW) in its solar plants this year, higher than the 400-500 MW it was initially targeting.
However, the strategy forced the company to cut its 2014 adjusted solar plant sales forecast to 460-580 MW from 500-650 MW.
SunEdison said it expects to sell 60-80 MW of solar plants on an adjusted basis in the second quarter, compared with 76 MW sold in the first quarter ended March 31.
SunEdison also plans to divest its semiconductor business, which makes wafers used in chips for computers, mobile phones and cars.
A softness in the semiconductor industry also pushed the company's average selling prices lower, which contributed to the weaker-than-expected first-quarter results.
SunEdison's net loss widened to $613.6 million, or $2.31 per share, from $89.4 million, or 40 cents per share, a year earlier.
The loss was 25 cents per share excluding a charge on its convertible notes due to a large increase in the company's share price.
Still the loss was wider than the 17 cents analysts' on average were expecting, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Adjusted sales rose 34 percent to $577.6 million, but missed analysts' average estimate of $593.9 million.
SunEdison shares, which have risen 26 percent in the last three months, closed at $18.31 on Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Swetha Gopinath in Bangalore; Editing by Savio D'Souza)
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