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UPDATE 2-First Solar results soar past estimates, stock up 6 pct

Thursday, 31 Oct 2013 | 5:53 PM ET

* Raises FY earnings view on operational improvements

* 2013 revenue forecast cut as some projects may be moved to 2014

* Stock up more than 6 percent in extended trade

(Adds financial details, industry background, updates stock price)

LOS ANGELES, Oct 31 (Reuters) - U.S. solar company First Solar Inc on Thursday reported quarterly results that blew past estimates and raised its earnings outlook for the year as it began recognizing revenue from a major project in California, sending shares higher.

The company also cut its sales outlook for the year, saying revenue from some projects may be pushed into next year.

First Solar shares were up 6.2 percent at $53.40 in extended trade after closing at $50.30 on the Nasdaq.

First Solar and fellow panel manufacturers were Wall Street darlings before a surge in Chinese production and a reduction in generous government incentive programs in Europe created a global glut of solar panels that sent prices into a tailspin and erased profit in the fast-growing industry.

But the company has cut costs, focused on overseas markets where solar power does not need incentives to compete with power from the grid, and has made progress on several major U.S. utility-scale projects. That strategy, and more stable pricing for solar panels, has paid off this year for investors. The stock is up more than 60 percent since January.

Third-quarter net income was $195 million, or $1.94 per share, up from $87.9 million or $1 per share a year ago.

Excluding items, the company earned $2.28 per share for the quarter, which handily topped analysts' average estimate of 99 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue was $1.3 billion, beating the average estimate of $988.63 million.

First Solar said initial revenue recognition from its 550 megawatt Desert Sunlight project in Riverside, California, contributed meaningfully to the quarter's stellar results. The company also benefited from the sale of three projects in Canada to a partnership led by General Electric Co.

Also on Thursday, First Solar said it sold its 250-megawatt Silver State South project in Nevada to a unit of NextEra Energy Inc. It is expected to be completed in 2016. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Tempe, Arizona, company cut its 2013 revenue view to $3.4 billion to $3.6 billion from a prior range of $3.6 billion to $3.8 billion.

Earnings per share, however, are forecast to be higher than expected for the year due to operational improvements. The company expects earnings of $4.25 to $4.50 per share, up from a prior view of $3.75 to $4.25 per share.

(Reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by David Gregorio, Bob Burgdorfer and Matthew Lewis)

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