FocusAsia’s polysilicon prices to rise ahead of China’s ADD decision

06 March 2013 03:54  [Source: ICIS news]

By Felicia Loo

SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asia’s polysilicon prices are expected to nudge higher, as Chinese downstream solar makers are rushing to buy the feedstock ahead of potential antidumping duties (ADDs) on imported polysilicon, market participants said on Wednesday. Polysilicon is the solar feedstock, which is used to manufacture mono/multi-crystalline ingots, wafers, solar cells and solar panels.

China’s Ministry of Commerce is likely to postpone its decision to impose a penalty tariff on polysilicon imports from the US and South Korea to some time between the middle of March and early April.

“[Chinese] buyers are insensitive to prices at this point,” said a trader, adding that buyers are eager to secure cargoes at the current low-priced environment before the ADDs set in.

Current polysilicon prices are a far cry from a year ago, ICIS data showed. Prices were at $25-27/kg (€19-21/kg) FOB (free on board) NE Asia in the week ended 7 March 2012, before continuing a downslide for the most part of last year amid a global bearish solar market.

Chinese polysilicon prices were assessed at yuan (CNY) 210,000-220,000/tonne ($33,760-35,370/tonne) DEL (delivered) China in the same period, the data indicated.

“Buyers don’t mind buying spot polysilicon at $17-19/kg,” the trader said.

The penalty tariff is expected to be at 30-50% or even higher, which will impact spot polysilicon prices in the Chinese market.

Domestic polysilicon prices will be pushed higher in the future if a tariff is levied on imports, because more downstream producers will rely heavily on domestic polysilicon instead of imports with high tariffs.

In China, polysilicon was heard traded at CNY140,000-150,000/tonne DEL China, according to market participants.

China’s polysilicon imports surged by 45% from a year ago to 6,791 tonnes in January, while it exported 427 tonnes over the same period, Chinese customs data showed.

Polysilicon is the feedstock for solar, which is used to manufacture mono/multi-crystalline ingots, wafers, solar cells and solar panels.

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

Many major polysilicon producers have ramped up their plant utilisation rates to meet the current surge in demand, which started since late last year, market participants said.

“The major players are running at some 80% [operating] rate and above,” a participant said.

However, small- to medium-sized polysilicon makers in China refrained from restarting their lines after they ceased production since late 2011, market participants said.

“The costs for us are around CNY300,000/tonne. It is impossible for us to consider producing polysilicon at current prices,” said one participant.

Others shared the view that the current increase in demand is hype.

“It is artificial demand. They want to beat the [ADDs] policy first,” another participant said.

($1 = €0.77)

($1 = CNY6.22)

By: Felicia Loo

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