RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
First Solar, viewed as the golden child of the solar industry, hold its quarterly call today with nervous investors. They're on edge because the Arizona-based company announced a CEO shake-up late last month and have said almost nothing publically since then. From member station KJZZ in Phoenix, Peter O'Dowd reports.
PETER O'DOWD, BYLINE: 2011 and the solar industry just don't get along. There was a bankruptcy at Solyndra, political fallout over government loan guarantees, and now the quasi-mysterious firing of First Solar CEO Robert Gillette. Tim Arcuri is a Citigroup Global Markets analyst.
TIM ARCURI: Whenever you put out a terse two-sentence release in the middle of the trading day, that's a bit odd.
O'DOWD: First Solar stock fell 25 percent after the announcement. Some analysts downgraded the stock, and company execs issued an earnings report ahead of schedule to stop some of the bleeding. Third-quarter sales topped one billion dollars - an improvement over last quarter. But Arcuri says First Solar isn't off the hook.
ARCURI: I think that they may have to lay some employees off and run the factories under-utilized. And I think that's a very tough pill to swallow for, you know, a company that since its inception has been the cost leader.
O'DOWD: Competition from China and weak demand in Europe have made it harder for First Solar to sustain its enviable cost advantage. Shayle Kann follows the industry for GTM Research. He says the shake-up doesn't say anything fundamental about the company.
SHAYLE KANN: It's I think important to look a bit longer term at how First Solar is competitively positioned, which in my standpoint is still quite good.
O'DOWD: For its part, First Solar says it needs a new chief to navigate industry turmoil. For much else, investors will have to wait until after the trading day when First Solar has its call. For NPR News, I'm Peter O'Dowd in Phoenix. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.