Bloomberg News

Q-Cells, Solarworld Left Reeling From Slower Demand, Prices

November 15, 2011

Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Solarworld AG and Q-Cells SE, Germany’s biggest solar cell and panel manufacturers, slumped the most in three years in Frankfurt trading after reporting wider-than-expected losses on slowing demand and lower prices.

Solarworld plunged as much as 16 percent after posting its first quarterly loss in almost two years. Q-Cells, once the world’s largest producer of solar cells, slid as much as 32 percent after saying it may not be able to “repay in full” a 202 million-euro ($277 million) bond in February and its chief financial officer quit. Chinese peer JinkoSolar Holding Co. today cut is full-year revenue forecast.

Solarworld and Q-Cells are the latest renewable energy companies to be left reeling from rising competition as demand ebbs in Germany, the world’s biggest solar market in 2010. Chinese manufacturers including LDK Solar have boosted capacity even as international prices slumped, tipping three U.S. solar companies including Solyndra LLC into bankruptcy this year.

“Margins are being squeezed by intense competition and lower prices,” Matthew Yates, an analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said in a note.

The spot price of solar panels has fallen about 40 percent this year as manufacturers ramped up their production capacity, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The 10 largest silicon panel manufacturers doubled their capacity last year, the data show.

Erode Margins

Most of the biggest solar-equipment makers may disappear in the next few years as plunging prices erode margins and drive the weakest out of business, according to Trina Solar Ltd., the fifth-largest supplier of solar panels.

Bonn-based Solarworld lost 9 million euros in the third quarter. It expects full-year sales to exceed 1 billion euros but not reach last year’s level of 1.3 billion euros because of lower-than expected prices and demand.

“We did not remain unscathed by the price declines caused by the strong surplus supply mainly from state-subsidized low- price providers,” Chief Executive Officer Frank Asbeck said in a statement.

Solarworld’s U.S. unit last month asked the U.S. government to slap duties on Chinese imports it says are undercutting U.S. manufacturers with unfair state aid.

SunPower Corp. and First Solar Inc., the largest U.S. solar-gear manufacturers, this month said they will reorganize after cutting their forecasts.

‘Refinancing Issues’

Marion Helmes resigned at her own request as CFO of Q-Cells and will leave at the end of the day, the Thalheim, Germany- based company said. Chief Executive Officer Nedim Cen will take over her role as well as retain his current duties to “personally and fully focus” on refinancing issues, he said on a conference call with reporters.

The company reported a loss before interest and tax of 47.3 million euros, more than twice the 21.4 million-euro loss forecast by analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

“Q-Cells has been struggling to maintain investors’ and customers’ faith in the company’s ability to survive,” Alla Gorelova, an analyst at Steubing AG in Frankfurt, said in a note to investors. “With the CFO going this will be more challenging.”

Last month, Q-Cells said the bond payment may be deferred until the end of next year. The company’s recent orders prove that it’s trusted by clients, Cen said. The company is in “ongoing talks” to find a partner for its Solibro thin-film module division, the CEO said.

The company estimated it will have as much as 300 million euros in cash by the end of the year, Cen said, down from a previous forecast of 300 million to 350 million euros. Q-Cells will revise its business plan by the end of November and then set out when it expects to make a profit again.

“The solar sector is experiencing a very difficult time dominated by pricing pressure and overcapacities,” Cen said. “This will also mean that we will become competitive more quickly and that will enable us to open new markets.”

--With assistance from Gelu Sulugiuc in Copenhagen. Editors: Stephen Cunningham, Tony Barrett.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stefan Nicola in Berlin at snicola2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net


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