SMA suffers price pressure in all markets and segments

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The German solar inverter producer SMA Solar Technology AG shipped 8.2 GW of devices in 2016, an increase of around 1 GW compared to the previous year.

Last year’s revenue, however, came in at €946.7 million ($1.01 billion), down slightly from 2015. Ebdita increased significantly year-on-year from €121.1 million (€130.0 million) to €141.5 million ($151.9 million). After tax profit for 2016 was €31.6 million ($33.9 million), slightly above the result registered a year earlier.

SMA say that the decrease in sales was due to an unexpectedly sharp decrease in average selling prices, and that the main earnings driver was still the segment for large-scale PV power plants. Commercial PV systems also registered good performance in 2016, the company added in its statement. The most important markets were North America, Japan, India, the UK and Germany.

A previously released outlook for the first quarter and full fiscal year 2017 has not been changed. In the first three months of this year, the company expects to achieve revenue between €165 million and € 175 million, while turnover is forecast to reach between €830 million and €900 million. Furthermore, SMA predicts Ebidta between €15 million and €18 million in the first quarter and between €70 million and €90 million in full fiscal year.

“2017 will undoubtedly be a challenge for the entire photovoltaics sector. Continued high price pressure in all markets and segments, combined with poor weather conditions in important sales markets such as the U.S. are also impacting SMA’s business performance in the first quarter,” said SMA Chief Financial Officer Ulrich Hadding.

The company also believes that, after solar demand contracts in China this year due to FIT cuts, many Chinese inverter makers will seek to sell their products in other markets, thus increasing pressure on prices, according to Reuters.

“Many Chinese providers are attempting to tap foreign markets with an aggressive pricing policy, and to use low prices to compensate the shortcomings in their sales,” Chief Executive Pierre-Pascal Urbon said. Urbon has also suggested that some Chinese manufacturers may not comply with legal standards.

SMA also has great hopes for digitalization of the energy sector. “SMA has focused its strategy on benefiting from attractive growth opportunities. This year, for example, we are launching a new energy management platform that allows commercial customers to monitor energy flow across different sectors (PV, heating, ventilation and air conditioning technology, and storage systems) for the first time. In developing our platform further, we will optimize total energy costs at a local level and facilitate interconnection with global IoT platforms. With SMA’s range of solutions, companies can develop new business models and increase their competitiveness. With our innovative inverter solutions, we also ensure high connectivity, grid stability and reliability. These are important prerequisites for an even faster expansion of photovoltaics,” said Urbon.