Fri, Nov 02, 2012 - Page 13 News List

Motech says solar trade dispute aiding Taiwan

BENEFICIARY:More Chinese companies are increasing outsourcing to Taiwan to avoid the hefty tariffs that the US imposes on Chinese solar product exports

By Lisa Wang  /  Staff reporter

The nation’s biggest solar cell maker, Motech Industries Inc (茂迪科技), yesterday said it expected business to improve further this quarter as a pickup in demand supports prices.

Motech attributed part of the rebound to an escalating trade dispute between China and the EU, and China and the US.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce yesterday announced an anti-dumping probe of EU exports of polysilicon used in making solar panels after the region launched an investigation in September into whether Beijing was improperly subsidizing solar panel exports.

Beijing launched a similar probe against US products in July after Washington imposed tariffs of up to 250 percent on China-made solar panels.

“We believe Taiwanese companies will [further] benefit from the anti-dumping and subsidy investigations after Chinese solar companies have cleared out their inventories,” Motech chief financial officer Jack Hsieh (謝祖葳) told an investor conference.

The investigations have helped boost Motech’s orders in the second quarter, which rose nearly 15 percent sequentially, Hsieh said, as Chinese companies farmed out production to Taiwanese firms to avoid hefty tariffs in the US.

The positive impact is continuing, Hsieh said.

“Based on our recent talks, customer demand looks robust,” Hsieh said. “Our factories have been running at full rate since last month. Demand is so strong that we have to push back some orders to December.”

Motech is also seeing an increase in outsourcing orders from Japan, one of the few solar markets in the world that is still growing amid a weak macroeconomy, Hsieh said.

The company expects solar cell prices to be flat this quarter after falling 5 percent quarter-on-quarter during the July-September period, Hsieh said.

“We think the fourth quarter will be a better period than the third quarter,” he said.

Motech’s quarterly loss improved substantially to NT$795 million last quarter, compared with a loss of NT$2.23 billion in the second quarter, as it booked a lower non-operating loss.

Motech booked a one-off impairment loss of NT$164 million from the company’s US polysilicon subsidiary in the second quarter.

Gross margin also improved to minus-16.6 percent last quarter, from minus-25.7 percent a quarter ago.

Next year, “at least, we do not expect a recurrence of the price collapse that we saw last year. We do not expect Motech’s factory utilization rate to dive to a low of say, 50 percent, in January,” he said. “We are not pessimistic about 2013.”

Meanwhile, local solar wafer maker Sino-American Silicon Products Inc (SAS, 中美晶) yesterday said the company returned to profitability in September, helped by its chip manufacturing subsidiary GlobalWafers Co (環球晶圓).

SAS eked out a net profit of NT$20 million in September, company president Doris Hsu (徐秀蘭) told reporters. Last quarter, contract chipmaking made up 77 percent of the company’s total revenue of NT$5.49 billion, while its solar wafer business’ contribution dropped to 10 percent.

Hsu was also upbeat about the solar industry’s prospects.

“The trade war between China, EU and US will help the solar industry to bottom out faster,” she said.

With solar products from China, the US and the EU under investigation, Taiwan could become an important supplier of solar products as it carries no heavy tariff risks, Hsu said.

That would boost demand and prices of locally made solar products, Hsu said.

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