First Solar to cut 1,600 jobs in a ‘challenging’ market

Source: By Maria Armental, Wall Street Journal • Posted: Monday, November 21, 2016

First Solar Inc. plans to lay off more than one-quarter of its staff as the company aims to restructure its operations.

The solar panel maker laid out the plan amid steep price declines and lower demand in China. It plans to cut 1,600 jobs worldwide.

First Solar said the restructuring will allow the company to phase out its existing solar panels; expedite the development of its Series 6, which is a more efficient solar module that is scheduled go into production in 2018; and help the company compete with low-cost rivals.

The structural change will also put the company’s finances into the red this year. Chief Financial Officer Alexander Bradley said 2017 production is expected to fall. In addition, executives have slashed their 2020 solar target in China, as the company sees further demand declines in that country.

The company predicts it will break even next year and said 2018 will be a transition year as production of the new modules increases.

“We feel strongly that our Series 6 modules provide a path for long-term growth and attractive returns, even if today’s challenging market conditions continue,” said company CEO Mark Widmar.