Not only has the broader market performed very well over the last several weeks, but one speculative sector of the market has really turned around significantly. Solar energy stocks were once high flyers, and then they got hammered with the broader correction in stocks. Now, they’re flying high once again.
One company that’s a real standout in this sector is First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ/FSLR). I first wrote about this company in this column in March 2007.
First Solar, based in Phoenix, Arizona, manufactures solar modules with an advanced “thin film” semiconductor process that helps reduce solar electricity costs. The company currently sells most of its product in Germany, where the adoption of solar energy is becoming widespread.
In its first quarter this year, the company’s revenues grew to a record one hundred and ninety-seven million dollars, up significantly from revenues of sixty-seven million dollars generated in the first quarter of fiscal 2007.
Net income in the latest quarter was more than forty-six million dollars, or $0.57 per fully diluted share, as compared to just $5.0 million, or $0.07 per fully diluted share.
With growth numbers like these, it’s no surprise that First Solar has been a hot stock.
Last year at this time, the stock was trading around $70.00 per share; it then proceeded to appreciate to around $275.00 per share in just under nine months. When the subprime credit crunch hit the market, this stock declined over $100.00 per share to around $175.00. Now, it’s back to the $275.00 per share mark and recently hit a new 53-week high of over $300.00 per share.
Clearly, First Solar illustrates just how volatile solar energy stocks can be. The good news is that astute investors could make a bundle playing these kinds of stocks — if you get it right. As First Solar proved, investment risk is very high with this company, but so have been the returns.