Top Exec Meyerhoff Leaves First Solar (FSLR), Goldman & Auriga Slightly Less Bullish

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11:08:15 pm on August 17, 2011

Tough day for First Solar (FSLR).  News hit last night that former CFO and current utilities head Jens Meyerhoff is leaving the company at the end of September and the company was downgraded twice.  Shares closed below the key $100 level today.

"Over the past five and a half years I had the privilege to be part of building the leading franchise in the PV solar industry. I am very proud of what we have achieved, not only financially, but also in building the foundation for a sustainable global market for solar power," said Meyerhoff. "With the full integration of our past acquisitions, the formation of a world-class Utility Systems team with a strong leader like Jim stepping up, as well as the completion of major project milestones such as the sale of Agua Caliente and the construction start of Desert Sunlight, First Solar is well-positioned for the future. The company has now reached a size and scale that allows me to step back and self-reflect before deciding my next step in life."

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Aiding the appetite for selling today was a Goldman Sachs removal of FSLR from their conviction buy list and a reduction in the price target from $175 to $150.  It should be noted however, that they still have a Buy rating on the stock and the removal has more to do with a shift to commodities and increased economic risk across the globe. 

Auriga also maintains its Buy rating on FSLR but lowered the price target from $168 to $154.  The firm notes that the departure of key executives is a concern, but that it’s not just First Solar.  It’s happening in many solar companies with changing business models and intense competition.

As I’ve mentioned before the critical area for FSLR is that $100 level which it closed a hair below today.  It must hold that long term level in the coming days or it could be a tough few months for FSLR shareholders.  In my opinion, if shares don’t close above 100 at the end of the trading day Friday, the risks of taking out that support level increase considerably.

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