In a research note on Friday, the German bank lifted its rating on shares of the renewable energy leader to buy from hold. Deutsche Bank analyst Vishal Shah also raised his price target on FSLR stock from $50 to $65, reflecting a 30% upside from Monday morning at $50.34.
Vishal highlights larger industry trends working in the favor of First Solar and its U.S. solar energy peers. While solar stocks have taken a beating over the past few years, hit by various factors including overproduction in China and the election of climate ch-skeptic President Donald Trump, the investment firm expects a continued boost in global demand to support a change in sentiment. As American cities and and utilities join a growing tide of regions around the world buying into solar, the technology has become increasingly efficient and cost-effective to the point where it can now compete with traditional forms of energy. (See also: Behind First Solar’s More Than 50% Decline in 2016.)
Supply Squeeze Improves Pricing, Margins
First Solar in particular suffered a major setback last year as it announced a costly restructuring in efforts to move toward its more cost-efficient Series 6 module, streamlining the production of a Series 4 and scrapping plans for a Series 5. The analyst indicates that a supply squeeze for the Series 4 will continue to bode well for the company’s prices and margins. At the same time, Vishal expects the Series 6 to begin shipment earlier than expected, in late 2017 rather than mid 2018.
The benefits of higher pricing have been compounded by stockpiling ahead of a ruling on the section 201 tariff, suggests Vishal, referring to a petition filed by bankrupt Suniva Inc. to impose temporary tariffs on Chinese-manufactured solar cells and modules. Deutsche Bank sees a “high likelihood of the ITC finding injury in the section 201 case,” resulting in Series 4 margins between 20% to 30%, compared to a rate of 17.5% for 2017. (See also: First Solar Earns 3 Upgrades Ahead of Earnings.)