Wacker Poly sales rise brings only limited benefits

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Munich chemicals giant Wacker may have seen strong demand for its polysilicon in the last three months of 2013 but with prices refusing to inch upwards throughout the year, it had to lean on its chemicals divisions to lift its full year figures.

While executives at Wacker Polysilicon can point to a 7% rise in sales to €1.09 billion (US$1.5 billion) for the October-December period, compared with €1.02 billion in Q4 2012, the fact poly prices are stuck at around a third less than those seen a year earlier has mitigated the gains seen by the parent company.

A release announcing Wacker’s full year figures yesterday stated: "Persistently low solar-silicon prices were the chief factor weighing on earnings."

Wacker CEO Rudolf Staudigl added: "In polysilicon, volumes picked up strongly even though prices have not improved noticeably in the fourth quarter."

Despite that rising demand at the end of the year, the group’s polysilicon division reported an earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) fall of more than 9%, year on year, after the business banked €55 million of retained advance payments and damages from broken supply contracts a year earlier.

EBITA falls despite rising polysilicon sales

Wacker Polysilicon only reported €8 million from the same sources of income in Q4 2013 to post an EBITDA fall from €78 million to €71 million for the three-month period.

But Wacker’s polysilicon division was not the only drag on the parent company’s figures with the release acknowledging prices were subdued for semiconductor wafers and exchange rates and a strong euro had also played their part.

Nevertheless, the Wacker statement emphasized the company’s cehmical divisions had dragged it over the line to make up for polysilicon’s pricing problems as the company added ‘most’ of its capital expenditure last year went to the ongoing construction of a new polysilicon facility in Charleston, Tennessee.

Bosses at the polysilicon business will be hoping for a long-awaited upturn in prices in 2014, after stabilization last year, and will have a close eye on the impact of U.S. duties on Taiwanese solar products as well as the effect of the Chinese riposte which slapped duties on its imports of U.S.-made polysilicon.

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