GT Solar ’11 earnings sizzle

Merrimack-based GT Solar posted a net income of $51.9 million, or 41 cents a share in the last quarter, bringing its net income for the fiscal year to $175 million, or $1.24 a share, with a backlog of $1.2 billion, the company announced Monday after the market closed.The maker of equipment and material to manufacture solar cells and LEDs reported revenues of $271.6 million for the fourth quarter, bringing revenue to the year to nearly $900 million, about 65 percent more than the year before.The company has about $363 million in cash, compared to $120 million in debt, deferred revenue of $445 million and net new orders from the fourth quarter of $234 million. It has already topped that for the first quarter of fiscal 2012, with $722 million in orders — a quarter that still has more than a month to go.The company upped its guidance for fiscal 2012 to a revenue range of $1 billion to $1.1 billion. It was previously $850 million to $1 billion, with earnings per share at $1.55 to $1.85. The high range of the previous guidance was $1.50.The large numbers are hardly a surprise. GT Solar announcements of multimillion-dollar deals have become commonplace. Last Wednesday, the company announced its largest sale to date — a $228 million deal to provide furnaces South Korea to make polysilicon, the material used for solar cells.While most of those announcements concern solar, GT has already recorded $15.3 million in LED business, which it entered last July when it bought Crystal Systems, a Massachusetts firm that makes special sapphire crystals needed for the lighting.GT Solar already has a total backlog of $184.2 million in sapphire production and net new orders of $94 million. The total sapphire orders booked to date: a whopping $484 million.On Sunday, Reuters speculated that GT – now the world’s third-largest supplier of photovoltaic solar equipment – could be a takeover target.”If a company like Applied Materials or even one of the other big semiconductor capital equipment makers needed to quickly increase their exposure to the solar market, GT Solar would fit very well,” Reuters quoted Kevin Landis, manager of the Firsthand Alternative Energy Fund. GT Solar is the $7 million fund’s largest holding.Other Reuter suspects include Swiss conglomerate Oerlikon Corp AG, LED equipment maker Veeco Instruments Inc., thermal processing equipment maker BTU International Inc., wafer processing equipment maker Amtech Systems Inc. and semiconductor equipment maker Novellus Systems Inc.After Monday’s earning release, GT Solar closed at $12, up 36 cents after hitting a 52-week high of $13.35 on Monday. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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