SMA delivers positivity across the board in 2015 financials

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The swift and encouraging turnaround in the fortunes of Germany’s inverter supplier SMA was confirmed today as the company delivered a glowing set of 2015 financial results that served to underline just how well the firm rode out the difficult market conditions of 2014.

Reporting a 24% year-on-year sales increase, SMA secured growth across the board, upping its international sales share and securing a 43.7% growth in the number of inverters sold.

Sales for 2015 reached €999.6 million ($1.13 billion), up from €805.4 million in 2014. Over the course of the year the company shipped 7.3 GW of inverters globally, besting 2014’s 5.1 GW figure as SMA grew in the markets of North America, the U.K., Japan and Australia.

In terms of international share of sales, SMA was able to claim 87.3% of the market, increasing its grip on global markets (up from 78.3% in 2014) at a time when the threat from foreign players – particularly those from China – has never been greater.

Perhaps most encouragingly for shareholders, SMA said that it will be recommending for the first time since 2012 a dividend payment of €0.14 per share – at a payout ratio of 34% – to shareholders. Collectively, this will amount to €4.9 million in dividends paid out after the AGM on May 31, 2016.

The company’s increased sales meant that EBITDA improved considerably in 2015, hitting €113.3 million ($128 million) having risen from negative $58.4 million in 2014.

Despite a round of severance payments enacted during the last fiscal year as the company cut 1,400 full time positions, SMA was still able to improve its cash flow to €61.8 million over the reporting period – a turnaround of close to €100 million ($113 million) in the space of 12 months. SMA ended the year with net cash of €285.6 million and an equity ratio of 49.1%.

Tough measures deliver positive outlook

SMA’s strong balance sheet is, said the company CEO Pierre-Pascal Urbon, the result of tough but decisive measures taken in 2014. "These measures are already bearing fruit," he remarked, adding that the company returned to profitability earlier than originally expected.

"We can now generate profits with considerably lower sales. As such, we have not only delivered more than we promised, but we did so while the group was undergoing its biggest restructuring ever. Even in difficult times, we did not lose sight of the future and systematically geared SMA towards the digitization of the energy industry."

The CEO added that recent partnerships with Tesla, Daimler and transmission grid operator TenneT will "point the way" to the future.

Looking ahead, SMA anticipates Q1 sales for 2016 to be between €235 million and €240 million, up slightly from Q1 2015, with EBIT to reach between €23 million to €27 million. In Q1 2015, EBIT limped home at €-5.4 million. Over the course of 2016, the managing board is eyeing sales of between €950 million to €1.05 billion, which would represent a 12-month period of stability.

Analysis by Smart Solar Consulting CEO Götz Fischbeck for pv magazine forecast a sustained challenge to SMA’s top spot globally from Israeli power optimizer specialist SolarEdge, which enjoyed a very profitable year of growth in 2015, while other analysts expect China’s Huawei and Sungrow to seek to increase their global market share in 2016.