SEMI, jointly with the German Engineering Federation or VDMA, gathered data from around 50 global equipment manufacturers who provided information on a quarterly basis.
For the quarter ending December 31, 2012, global photovoltaic manufacturing equipment book-to-bill ratio has been reported as being below parity at 0.45. This situation is now occurring for the seventh consecutive quarter. Market oversupply across the supply chain has been cited as the reason why booking levels are low.
Bettina Weiss executive vice president of business development at SEMI explains to pv magazine that analysts are divided over when exactly the upturn will happen, but consensus appears to be forming that the upstream market will improve in the first half of 2014, depending on continued consolidation, the various trade disputes in play and the persistent overcapacity. "My sense is that cell and module manufacturers are holding off on new equipment purchases and going with used tools for the time being," Weiss adds.
Equipment sales were the highest in Asia, with about 80% of total billings coming from the region for the full year 2012. SEMI's Weiss also confirms that China is the largest market with about 60% of the billings.
Despite net new orders for PV manufacturing equipment improving 1% in Q4 2012 compared to the previous quarter, bookings were down 48% year-over-year. Global billings contracted 15% in Q4 2012 compared to Q3. Year-over-year billings declined 39% in the fourth quarter of 2012.
The total billings for 2012 fell by 59% from 2011's US$6.18 billion to $2.55 billion. Annual bookings were $1.31 billion in 2012, 74% below 2011 bookings of $4.97 billion.
With the uncertain conditions in the market and the ever-looming trade war, the impact has been felt by equipment manufacturers too. SEMI's Bettina Weiss tells pv magazine that all manufacturing sectors of the PV industry will continue to be stressed throughout the year.
"We've had falling prices for PV cells and modules, due in large part to massive over-capacity of production. Now a series of trade disputes and retaliatory actions have arisen threatening the global trading system beyond the solar industry itself. These trade problems must be addressed and resolved in a constructive manner, with worldwide industry participation, in order to propel the industry into the next level of growth and sustainability," she concludes.