Chinese solar module manufacturer LDK Solar Co. Ltd. said Monday that it posted a $588.7 million fiscal fourth-quarter loss on a steep drop in demand for solar products and sliding prices. Shares sank 8 percent.
The loss was significantly larger than Wall Street expected, and the company posted a revenue outlook for the current quarter that fell far short of Wall Street estimates.
LDK said that during the October-December quarter, the overall solar industry was significantly hurt by having too many solar products for sale, while demand declined. That sent prices tumbling. As a result, LDK said its own sales dropped and margins -- how much revenue it keeps as profit -- shrunk.
A collapse in solar panel prices has erased the industry's profits and forced some smaller companies into bankruptcy.
The company said it expects excess capacity and uncertainty surrounding solar power policies in Europe and the United States to result in heavy competition within the industry this year. Governments in Europe, the biggest market for solar power, are reducing generous subsidy programs that had fueled demand. Prices could drop even further, and LDK is working to cut costs.
For the quarter ended Dec. 31, LDK's loss attributable to common shareholders amounted to $4.63 per U.S. share and compared with a profit of $145.2 million, or $1.09 per U.S. share, in the last three months of 2010.
Analysts, on average, expected a loss of 86 cents per share, according to FactSet.
Revenue dropped 54 percent to $420.2 million from $920.9 million, as the market prices for polysilicon, wafers and modules all fell significantly. Analysts expected $436 million in revenue in the latest quarter.
The price declines reduced the value of its inventory, the company said, and it also set aside $179.2 million for "doubtful receivables and prepayments," citing the "deteriorating solar market" that was hurting customers and suppliers. Receivables are payments owed to a company by customers.
Troubles are continuing in the current quarter, which ends in March. LDK projected first-quarter revenue of between $190 million and $230 million. Analysts predict far higher revenue of $420.9 million.
For the full year, LDK Solar expects revenue of $2 billion to $2.7 billion. Analysts forecast $2 billion.
LDK shares dropped 24 cents, or 8.1 percent, to $2.72 in premarket trading. Shares have ranged from $2.55 to $11.63 in the past 12 months.