First Solar Profit Jumps, Sees Sales Growth

First Solar, maker of thin-film solar equipment, said on Wednesday its third-quarter earnings jumped and it expected revenues to be up sharply in 2008.

Net income was $46 million, or 58 cents per share, versus $4.3 million, or 6 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Revenues rose to $159 million from $40.8 million a year ago as the company ramped up production from its plant in Germany that opened earlier this year.

Strong demand for renewable energy sources have driven solar sector shares sharply higher over the past year. First Solar's shares have rallied by more than five-fold since they debuted in November last year.

First Solar has attracted investors because its thin-film photovoltaic technology does not rely heavily on silicon to turn sunlight into electricity. Short supplies of the material have constrained expansion for other solar companies.

Chief Financial Officer Jens Meyerhoff told a conference call the company expects full-year 2007 revenues between $480 million to $485 million.

Those revenues would rise to $760 to $800 million in 2008, when the company's solar module output would rise to 370 to 390 megawatts from 2007's expected output of 200 MW.

On Tuesday, First Solar announced it planned to build a fourth manufacturing plant, with production expected to begin in the second half of 2009.