IMS Research observes falling gross margins

20. July 2011 | Global PV markets, Markets & Trends, Top News | By:  Jonathan Gifford

The latest quarterly report into the photovoltaic industry, by IMS Research, shows falling module prices and big reductions in gross margins for module suppliers.

A graph showing declining gross profits for module suppliers with increases projected in the third and fourth quarters of 2011.

Module supplier gross profits table including projections for profit rebound. Image: IMS Research.

The industry analysts observe that with increased competition amongst module suppliers, prices have fallen by around 15 percent. With suppliers unable to reduce their costs by similar amounts, gross margins have also declined by 25 percent over the last six months.

Average crystalline photovoltaic module prices were close to $1.80 per-watt, price declines has seen the same modules now priced below $1.40 per-watt. While cell and wafer prices have also fallen over 30 percent since the end of 2010, average wafer and cell prices have fallen at a far slower rate. IMS Research has also reported “stubborn” polysilicon prices remain above $50 per kilogram limiting, “the ability of downstream suppliers to reduce their costs.”

IMS Research’s Sam Wilkinson commented, "Current pricing levels are putting huge pressure on [Chinese Tier-1 cystalline photovoltaic module suppliers’] margins; we believe their average gross margins could fall by 20 percent by quarter three, 2011." He continued that Tier-2 margins will be pushed even lower.

While this pressure on suppliers is significant, the IMS Research report predicts that rebounding demand in the second half of 2011 will help supplier profits recover.

Gross photovoltaic profit is estimated to have averaged $2.5 billion per quarter in 2010. IMS Research estimates that this has declined by close to 40 percent in the first and second quarters of 2011. However, gross profit is projected to grow again in the third and fourth quarters on this year.

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