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Chinese PV product makers face gloomy fourth quarter

Post Time:Dec 02,2008Classify:Industry NewsView:363

Chinese photovoltaic product manufacturers, who have just enjoyed a two-year boom period, are concerned that the global financial crisis will cool overseas demand and impact their bottom lines in the fourth quarter.

Chinese PV product manufacturers rely on exports for 95 percent to 98 percent of their sales, and as such, the industry could be in for a long winter, Qu Xiaohua, president of Suzhou-based PV product maker CSI Solar Manufacturing Inc., told Interfax at the 3rd China New Energy International Forum. According to CSI's third quarter report, the company has lowered its expectations for shipments, margins and earnings for the fourth quarter.

Changzhou-based Trina Solar Ltd., another PV product manufacturer, has seen demand for its products shrink in recent months and some of its customers have even reneged on contracts, according to the company's technology committee director Qiu Diming.

Shi Zhengrong, chairman and CEO of Suntech Power, China's largest solar cell producer and a major exporter to Europe, agreed that China's PV product market is entering a tough period. Suntech Power stated in its third quarter report that the weakening of the Euro against the U.S. dollar, combined with unstable credit markets, would hurt its profitability in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, manufacturers have been unable to gain some breathing room by capitalizing on the recent tumble in prices for polysilicon, a raw material used to make PV products, which have halved from a high of RMB 3,000 ($439.24) per kilogram in July, as they have also cut solar cell and solar module prices on poor demand.

According to Shi from Suntec Power, which is also operates solar power stations, the industry should band together to petition for more government support, with the aim of extracting policies that will stimulate the domestic market as overseas markets weaken.

One of the problems that Suntech faces is that there are no incentives for power grid companies to spend money to connect solar power stations to their grids, despite China's Renewable Energy Law, which requires them to do so. Shi said that it took two years for one of Suntech Power's projects to be connected to the local grid.

Song Shucai, deputy general manager of Tianwei Group, a large Hebei-based renewable energy developer, suggested that the government raise power tariffs by RMB 0.02 ($0.0029) and use the proceeds to subsidize renewable energy projects.

Despite their concerns, Chinese PV product manufacturers are trying to look on the bright side of things. Several executives pointed out that the European Union, the United States and Japan are now encouraging solar power development as a way to stimulate economic growth.

In the meantime, Chinese PV product manufacturers could increase their focus on thin-film silicon PV modules, a sub-area that is attracting significant interest, especially from state-owned companies with deep pockets.

Jeannine Sargent from Oerlikon Solar, the world's leading manufacturer of thin-film PV silicon solutions, told Interfax that China's thin-film PV market will still be one of the fastest growing markets when compared with others around the globe. "For Oerlikon Solar, we are expecting a 200 percent increase in revenue from 2007 to 2009 in China."

Dr. Sun Haiyan, head of Oerlikon Solar Technical Marketing Asia, believes there are a couple of reasons why the sector will remain strong in the near term. "The price of glass, which is used as a raw material in thin-film solar module production, is quite cheap in China, which is an advantage when it comes to manufacturing," he said, adding that state-owned companies will likely support development in this field.

In this April and July, Oerlikon Solar signed two turnkey contracts with China's Tianwei Group and Chint Solar to supply thin-film solar module production lines. "We anticipate that we will not only build manufacturing facilities, but also partner with our customers on an R & D center as well," Sargent said.

Source: INTERFAX-CHINA Author: shangyi

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