First Solar Begins German Manufacturing Ahead of Schedule; But Shares Suffer

First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR) announced that its second factory at Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany, has begun producing solar modules one month ahead of schedule.

The four new production lines are expected to ramp to full production during Q311, bringing annual capacity at the two Frankfurt factories to more than 500 megawatts (MW).

In addition, the company notes that it has manufactured 4 gigawatts (GW) of thin-film photovoltaic solar modules since beginning commercial production in 2002.

But in recent months, First Solar has been a target for short sellers, who benefit as a stock declines. They borrow shares and sell them with the expectation of buying them, or covering their shorts, at a lower price.

Short interest in the company rose to 37.4% of the company’s free float as of May 31, according to Nasdaq data released at the end of last week. That is up from 30.8% on May 13. 

According to a Reuters article, well-known short seller Ames Chanos says he’s betting First Solar will fall because solar is still too expensive compared with traditional sources of electricity generation, and because Chinese competitors are increasing capacity and cutting costs so rapidly that profits across the industry are suffering.

However, in February, First Solar announced it is continuing to reduce its own costs, while increasing panel efficiencies. And last month First Solar signed a strategic agreement with China Power in an effort to build its commercial presence in China’s fast-growing market for solar development. 

The company’s shares are down about 1% in todays trading, selling at around $116 per share.

First Solar also has manufacturing sites in Perrysburg, Ohio, and Kulim, Malaysia, as well as new plants under construction in Mesa, Ariz., and Vietnam. It recently completed the production ramp of its two newest plants in Malaysia.

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