AUO seeks solar module partners to counter tariffs

By Lisa Wang  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Aug 16, 2012 - Page 13

AU Optronics Corp (AUO, 友達光電) yesterday said it was in talks with potential partners to form a strategic alliance to make solar modules in Europe in a bid to circumvent possible anti-dumping tariffs amid escalating solar disputes between China and the EU.

AU Optronics, which is diversifying its business from LCD panel manufacturing to the solar sector, is inviting solar module brands and power plant operators to forge strategic partnerships to supply solar modules made in its factory in Brno, Czech Republic.

“The European solar market is rife with anti-dumping allegations,” said Chen Lai-juh (陳來助), president of the company’s solar business operation.

“[The] EU project is to provide an open platform with resource-sharing concepts and it will become the best solar solution amid anti-dumping policies,” Chen said.

In May, the US Department of Commerce slapped a 31 percent anti-dumping tariff on solar panels containing Chinese-made solar cells. Numerous Chinese solar cell makers, such as SunTech (尚德), are affected by the punitive tax.

Last month, European solar firms led by Germany’s SolarWorld filed a complaint and requested the EU investigate whether Chinese firms had been selling their products at prices below market value in the economic bloc.

AU Optronics currently have solar cell and solar wafer manufacturing subsidiaries in Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan and China.

The company’s solar module factory in Brno has an annual capacity of 150 megawatts and AU Optronics has helped customers build solar power plants in Germany, the UK, Italy, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

Taiwanese solar companies, mostly solar cell-makers, reported 17.5 percent quarterly growth in revenue for last quarter to NT$29.13 billion (US$971 million) because of a rebound in demand and price, according to statistics compiled by the government-funded Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI, 工研院).

However, that figure was still about 27.3 percent lower than a year ago, ITRI’s statistics showed.

This quarter, local solar companies are expected to increase their revenue by a meager 6.7 percent sequentially to NT$31.07 billion as customers mulled reducing orders amid the unresolved European debt crisis and fewer government subsidies, ITRI said.

Slow demand and oversupply would bring the whole year’s revenue down 29.4 percent to NT$115.8 billion from last year, ITRI predicted.

Last week, the nation’s two biggest solar cell makers, Gintech Energy Corp (昱晶) and Motech Industries Inc (茂迪), said revenue fell 4.9 percent and 11 percent last month from June to NT$1.41 billion and NT$1.09 billion respectively.