FocusAsia polysilicon market to stay bearish in Q4 on weak demand

20 September 2012 04:00  [Source: ICIS news]

By Felicia Loo and Junie Lin

Solar cell panels being tested in China. SINGAPORE (ICIS)--The fourth-quarter outlook of the Asian polysilicon market is set to be bearish as a result of bloated supplies across the solar chain and poor demand, market players said on Thursday.

The polysilicon prices had declined by 62% from year-ago levels to $17.50/kg ($17,500/tonne) (€13,475/tonne) FOB (free on board) NE (northeast) Asia in the week ended 19 September, according to ICIS data.

The prices stood at $46.50/kg FOB NE Asia in the week ended 21 September 2011, the data showed.

“The market is facing a glut of solar panels. From polysilicon to solar modules, there is oversupply and demand is so poor,” said a market player in northeast Asia.

The bleak world economy has dampened demand for the solar feedstock, which is used to manufacture mono/multi-crystalline ingots, wafers, solar cells and solar panels

Just one MW (megawatt) of photovoltaic power requires seven tonnes of polysilicon material, which is traded in chunks, rods and granules.

Many of the polysilicon producers in China had already shut their operations, leaving only a handful of major players running their plants, market players said.

“How can a producer run the plant when the prices are so low,” said one Chinese market player, adding the current prices are far below than the production costs of yuan (CNY) 300,000/tonne.

The polysilicon prices in China were assessed at CNY135,000-140,000/tonne in the week ended 19 September, down by CNY5000-10,000/tonne in the previous week, ICIS data showed.

Despite incurring a loss some companies were still producing polysilicon and this was reflected in their weaker balance sheets.

China-based LDK Solar posted a net loss of $254.3m in the second quarter of 2012.  The Chinese firm’s net sales for the second quarter were at $235.4m, compared with $499.4m recorded in the same period a year earlier.

The net loss was $87.7m a year earlier.

LDK Solar said an inventory write-down and other provisions totalling $35.1m were factored in its second-quarter financial results, because of the high production costs of polysilicon and the falling prices of polysilicon, wafers, cells and modules.

The solar cells and modules makers in China are operating their plants at less than 50% capacity to stem losses and because of weak demand.

Inventories of the downstream products were ample, and so were the stocks of polysilicon, market players said.

The market became more bearish after the European Commission started in early September an anti-dumping investigation into imports of solar panels and their key components – solar cells and wafers – originating from China.

The move has taken a toll on the Chinese solar market, players said.

China’s Suntech Power Holdings has temporarily closed a portion of its solar cell production capacity in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, to reduce operating costs.

The reasons given were the preliminary US anti-dumping tariff, the European anti-dumping investigation, and oversupply of solar modules.

Suntech Power’s operational solar cell capacity will temporarily be reduced to 1.8 gigawatt (GW), module capacity will remain at 2.4 GW and wafer capacity will remain at 1.6 GW.

The entire photovoltaic chain suffers from hefty inventories and snail-paced demand for solar installation because of the weak global economic conditions.

“At this rate, the fourth-quarter outlook is likely to be bleak,” said a market player.

($1 = €0.76)

Read John Richardson and Malini Hariharan’s blog – Asian Chemical Connections

By: Felicia Loo

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