Ferro shares fall on lower guidance, sale news

CLEVELAND -- Ferro Corp.'s shares plunged 23 percent Wednesday after the specialty chemical company lowered its guidance and said it is exploring the strategic options for its solar paste business.

THE SPARK: Ferro said Tuesday that due to struggles in its solar pastes and metal powders businesses, it expects to earn 7 to 12 cents per share in 2012 on an adjusted basis. That is down from its prior forecast of 14 to 17 cents per share.

Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting the company to earn 17 cents per share prior to the announcement.

The company said that the market for conductive pastes used in the manufacturing of solar cells has been difficult, due to excess supply that has led to a decline in prices for solar panels. Ferro said it is now exploring strategic options for the business in an effort to eliminate its drag on earnings.

THE BIG PICTURE: The solar panel industry has been struggling with a market glut of products, low demand in Europe and a flood of cheap Asian imports. This has driven down solar panel prices and created intense competition among manufacturers.

That lower demand has hurt companies such as Ferro, which provides products that support the solar panel industry.

THE ANALYSIS: KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Michael Sison reiterated a "Hold" rating on the company's shares. He expects the company to run a loss through the back half of the year and sees more uncertainty about its longer-term turnaround story.

"There lacks a clear catalyst in the near term to drive an attractive return commensurate with the current risks," Sison wrote in a research note.

SHARE ACTION: Ferro's shares fell 84 cents to $2.79 by midday. Its shares are trading at the low end of its 52-week trading range of $2.65 and $7.50.