SolarWorld narrows loss, increases sales in first quarter

German PV manufacturer SolarWorld on Friday confirmed preliminary first-quarter results showing a 50% increase in first-quarter revenue while narrowing pre-tax losses, and announced plans to boost capacity at all of its main sites.

SolarWorld anticipates continued strong demand for its high-performance products featuring PERC technology, saying it will convert cell production at all three production sites over to the PERC process.

In addition, the company plans to bring solar cells and modules with five-bus-bar technology on the market later this year. The current market standard is three bus bars. The five-bus-bar technology increases the cell efficiency by up to two percentage points. Based on the PERC and five-bus bar technologies, SolarWorld is looking to launch the first 300 W solar module worldwide in the standard format with 60 solar cells in serial production during the third quarter 2015.

The group is also planning to expand overall capacities. Module capacity at its U.S. site in Hillsboro, Oregon, is set to reach 530 MW in the second half of the year. The company also plans to step up production of monocrystalline solar wafers over the course of the year in Arnstadt and Freiberg in Germany.

Q1 revenue up, pre-tax loss down

SolarWorld’s first-quarter sales rose 50% to €149.1 million ($169.5 million). The company said it managed to increase its share of high efficiency modules in groupwide shipments. In conjunction with exchange rate effects, it was able to increase average sales prices of its products on a euro basis, resulting in a disproportionately large increase in revenues compared with the increase in shipments.

SolarWorld reduced its pre-tax loss to €8 million. The company’s hefty first-quarter pre-tax loss last year of €127.4 million included a sizeable one-off effect related to its acquisition of Bosch Solar Energy AG assets that amounted to €135.6 million. Adjusted for the one-off effect, the company’s Q1 pre-tax loss last year would have been around €8.2 million.

The company said operative measures to improve efficiency and cost structure at all of its locations resulted in an overall positive trend in its financial performance.

Shipments

In the first three months of the year, SolarWorld increased groupwide shipments of solar power modules and kits by 44% to 202 MW. The company said business in the United States was "a major contributing factor in this development." SolarWorld increased U.S. shipments by 170% to 116 MW. The U.S. accounted for 57% of SolarWorld’s total shipments of modules and kits. The group also reported growth in Japan, Australia and South Africa.

As announced earlier this year, SolarWorld expects to increase its shipments including sales of solar wafers and cells in 2015 by at least 25% compared with 2014 and thus to exceed the 1 GW mark for the first time. It also expects consolidated revenue 2015 to rise by at least 25% in comparison with the previous year to more than €700 million.

"The signs point to growth," said SolarWorld CEO Frank Asbeck. "We will boost shipments and revenue, expand our capacities to this end and will further increase our efficiency and cost structure, not least by investing in new technologies."

On this basis, Asbeck predicted the group would achieve a positive EBIT "without potential one-off effects in the entire fiscal year 2015 as planned."