Solar cell makers see no sign of business upturn

By Lisa Wang  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Oct 03, 2012 - Page 13

A company executive at Motech Industries Inc (茂迪), the nation’s biggest solar cell maker, yesterday said no sign of a quick recovery in the industry was on the horizon, as customers were cautious amid excessive inventory and the impact of anti-dumping probes into Chinese solar companies by the EU.

The Tainan-based solar cell maker’s comments added to a bleak outlook shared by most solar companies, such as local solar wafer maker American Silicon Products Inc (中美晶), which expected the industrial slump to remain in place for at least the next two quarters.

“The [order] visibility is very low, especially, since the first half of last year, the visibility has [dropped] to one month [from two months],” Motech chief executive officer Chang Ping-heng (張秉衡) told reporters during a press conference held to open the annual photovoltaic show in Taipei.

“I do not think there will be a significant change in the fourth quarter. At least, I do not see any sign of a reverse [to current stagnation],” Chang said, adding that the fourth quarter was a slow season for solar-panel installations because of cold weather.

Customers have put orders on hold, awaiting the first ruling of the EU’s anti-dumping investigation into Chinese solar companies and amid an inventory-digestion period, Chang said.

Chang pinned his hope on the EU’s ruling to divert orders to local solar companies, which would boost factory utilization rates and stabilize prices, as the EU investigation started even before the US decided to impose heavy taxes on solar imports from China in the first half of this year.

Before the second quarter of next year, the likelihood of a substantial pickup looked slim, he said.

Local solar companies have their factories run at a 50 percent to 80 percent equipment utilization rate, which is better than the 30 percent to 60 percent rate in China, said Jerry Chen (陳繼仁), chairman of Giga Solar Materials Corp (碩禾), a solar-industry subsidiary of optical disc maker Gigastorage Corp (國碩).

Pan Wen-whe (潘文輝), president of solar cell maker Gintech Energy Corp (昱晶), was even more optimistic.

“Business in the fourth quarter will be better than the third quarter. Our customers are unable to get bank loans because of the European debt crisis,” he said.

“I do not expect a rebound to happen in the first quarter of next year,” Pan added.

What worried him more was the prolonged overcapacity-driven price slump. Some solar companies, mostly from China, were selling their products at extremely low prices because they were so desperate to create cash to support their operations, Pan said.

“We will not join this game. We will not take orders at prices below our costs,” he said.

SEMI, a co-organizer of the photovoltaic show, yesterday said the event is expected to bring US$200 million worth of orders for local solar companies.

This year, 214 companies are set to showcase their latest products during the three-day show beginning today at the Taipei World Trade Center in Exhibition Hall I.