"First quarter demand reflected historical seasonality combined with an ongoing but improving pandemic demand impact that we believe will continue to improve throughout 2021," stated Michael Burger, President and Chief Executive Officer. "Once demand returns to normalized pre-pandemic levels, we believe our new cost structure will enable the sustained achievement of our success model of 20% EBITDA margins."
Mr. Burger continued, "While demand recovers, we remain focused on executing our strategic initiatives including the alignment of our hardware and software development activities to add value to our customer's workflows and create long-term product differentiation in our target markets."
First Quarter 2021 Financial Summary
2021 first quarter sales of $76.3 million compare with $79.5 million for the first quarter of 2020. However, new order bookings in the first quarter at $80.6 million were up 3% over the preceding year. The slight decline in sales for the quarter is the result of the economic effect of Covid pandemic which is still in the recovery stage. Sequentially, sales and bookings compared with the fourth quarter 2020 were lower by 18% and 15%, respectively, reflecting normal seasonality in our business.
Gross margin was 52.9% for the first quarter 2021, as compared to 55.2% for the same prior year period. Non-GAAP gross margin was 53.0% for the first quarter 2021 compared to 55.5% for the first quarter 2020. The annual decrease in gross margin was primarily a result of changes in product mix and lower sales resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Operating expense, was $46.8 million for the first quarter 2021, compared to $60.4 million for the same prior year period. Non-GAAP operating expense was $42.8 million for the first quarter 2021 compared to $44.3 million for the first quarter 2020.
Net loss was $3.2 million, or $0.18 per share, for the first quarter 2021, as compared to a net loss of $14.8 million, or $0.84 per share, for the first quarter 2020. Non-GAAP net loss was $0.6 million, or $0.03 per share, for the first quarter 2021 compared to Non-GAAP net loss of $0.4 million, or $0.02 per share, for the first quarter 2020.
Adjusted EBITDA was $0.4 million, or 0.5% of total sales, for the first quarter of 2021 compared to Adjusted EBITDA of $3.1 million, or 3.9% of total sales, for the first quarter of 2020.
The Company's cash and short-term investments decreased $15.7 million to $170.0 million as of the end of the first quarter of 2021, and the Company remained debt-free.
* A reconciliation of the non-GAAP financial measures to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measures is provided in the financial schedules portion at the end of this press release. An additional explanation of these measures is included below under the heading "Non-GAAP Financial Measures".
The Company will host a conference call to discuss these results on Thursday, April 29, 2021 at 8:00 a.m. ET. Interested parties can access the conference call by dialing (877) 876-9176 (U.S.) or +1 (785) 424-1670 (International) and using the passcode FARO. A live webcast will be available in the Investor Relations section of FARO's website at: https://www.faro.com/about-faro/investor-relations/events
A replay webcast will be available in the Investor Relations section of the company's web site approximately two hours after the conclusion of the call and will remain available for approximately 30 calendar days.
For 40 years, FARO has provided industry-leading technology solutions that enable customers to quickly and easily measure their world, and then use that data to make smarter decisions faster. FARO continues to be a pioneer in bridging the digital and physical worlds through data-driven reliable accuracy, precision and immediacy. For more information, visit http://www.faro.com
Non-GAAP Financial Measures
This press release contains information about our financial results that are not presented in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles ("GAAP"). These non-GAAP financial measures, including non-GAAP gross profit, non-GAAP gross margin, non-GAAP operating expenses, non-GAAP loss from operations, non-GAAP other expense, net, non-GAAP net loss and non-GAAP net loss per share, exclude the impact of purchase accounting intangible amortization expense, stock-based compensation, imputed interest expense recorded related to the GSA Matter, restructuring charges, and other tax adjustments, and are provided to enhance investors' overall understanding of our historical operations and financial performance.
In addition, we present Adjusted EBITDA, which is calculated as net loss before interest expense, net, income tax benefit and depreciation and amortization, excluding other (income) expense, net, stock-based compensation, and restructuring charges, as measures of our operating profitability. The most directly comparable GAAP measure to Adjusted EBITDA is net loss. We also present Adjusted EBITDA margin, which is calculated as Adjusted EBITDA as a percent of Non-GAAP total sales.
Management believes that these non-GAAP financial measures provide investors with relevant period-to-period comparisons of our core operations using the same methodology that management employs in its review of the Company's operating results. These financial measures are not recognized terms under GAAP and should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for a measure of financial performance prepared in accordance with GAAP.
These non-GAAP financial measures have limitations that should be considered before using these measures to evaluate a company's financial performance. These non-GAAP financial measures, as presented, may not be comparable to similarly titled measures of other companies due to varying methods of calculation. The financial statement tables that accompany this press release include a reconciliation of these non-GAAP financial measures to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measures.