Q-Cells '08, '09 warnings hit solar sector

FRANKFURT - Q-Cells, the world's largest solar cell maker, cut its full-year outlook on Tuesday and said demand for its products could remain subdued until mid-2009, driving down its own shares and those of rivals across Europe.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Tue 9 Dec 2008, 3:33 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:14 AM

Q-Cells, which said the financial crisis had led some customers to postpone agreed deliveries until next year, saw its shares shed close to a fifth of their value by 0846 GMT, falling 18.2 percent to 22.4 euros and leading decliners in Frankfurt's technology index.

Other manufacturers in what is Europe's biggest solar market, including module maker Solon and solar energy company SolarWorld, followed suit.

"The extent of the cut was quite strong," said FrankfurtFinanz market analyst Heino Ruland. "If the market leader has such problems, the question is how others are doing."

Q-Cells, which generated sales of 858 million euros in 2007 compared with 503 million for Solon and just under 700 million for SolarWorld, said uncertainty and weakening demand linked to the crisis had prompted order postponements in recent days.

"These volumes could not be placed elsewhere at short notice," it said.

The company, which had hiked its full-year outlook last month, said it now saw 2008 sales reaching 1.225 billion euros ($1.58 billion), compared with a previous forecast of 1.35 billion. Net income was now expected at 185 million euros, compared with 215 million previously.

Shares in rival Solon, which cut its sales outlook for 2008 and 2009 last month, were down 3.05 percent, while SolarWorld, which last month made a surprise offer for General Motors' German Opel plants, dived 9.5 percent.

Shares of solar companies outside Germany also saw declines, with Switzerland's Meyer Burger shedding 4.35 percent and Norway's Renewable Energy Corp (REC) down 9.15 percent.

For 2009, Q-Cells now expected sales of between 1.75-2.25 billion euros, down from 2.25 billion previously.

"Most solar companies have been quite cautious regarding 2009," said Equinet analyst Sebastian Growe.

"I thought that the solar industry would be able to steer (clear) of the crisis' downward spiral, but the fact that Q-Cells cut its forecast for 2009 really deals a blow to the industry," he added.

Experts expect prices for solar cells and modules to fall in 2009, which will be an additional burden to the industry.

Q-Cells said that due to the uncertain market conditions it expected demand to remain weak into early 2009, adding that the company's investments next year would focus on the expansion of production capacities for crystalline solar cells and on its majority interests in thin-film companies.

Market demand would recover in the second half of 2009, at the latest, Q-Cells said.

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