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First Solar posts surprise profit on lower costs, project sale

(Adds details, outlook, shares)

May 2 (Reuters) - First Solar Inc, the largest U.S. solar equipment manufacturer, posted a surprise profit, helped by the sale of the Moapa project and cost-cutting.

Shares of the company, which also raised its full-year revenue forecast, rose 6.7 percent in extended trading on Tuesday.

First Solar also said it expected a larger adjusted profit, citing increased visibility into some upcoming project sales.

The company said in March it sold the 250-megawatt Moapa project, located northeast of Las Vegas, to global private asset manager Capital Dynamics.

Total operating expenses fell 5.6 percent to $92.2 million in the first quarter ended March 31.

The company said it expects full-year revenue of $2.85 billion-$2.95 billion, slightly above its previous forecast of $2.8 billion-$2.9 billion.

First Solar said it now sees adjusted profit between 25-75 cents per share, well above its previous forecast of breakeven to 50 cents.

The company's net profit slumped to $9.1 million, or 9 cents per share, in the first quarter from $195.6 million, or $1.90 per share, a year earlier.

The latest quarter was hurt by pre-tax restructuring and asset impairment charges of $20 million.

First Solar said in November it would cut about 27 percent of its workforce and transition to a new product ahead of schedule.

The company is bringing forward production of its Series 6 modules by a year to 2018 and abandoning plans for the Series 5 product. First Solar originally expected the Series 5 and 6 products to be on the market at the same time.

Excluding items, the company earned 25 cents per share.

Analysts on average had estimated a loss of 13 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company said net sales rose to $891.8 million from $876.1 million, handily beating analysts' estimate of $667.8 million. (Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)