GT Solar closes profitable fiscal year with brisk quarter, guides revenue growth for FY2011

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GT Solar ended its fiscal year on a positive note, posting fourth-quarter revenues of $194.7 million, a 12% increase over the previous period’s $173.6 million. Year-end revenues came in at $544.2 million, a slight increase over FY2009’s $541 million, with the majority of the 2010 sales–$357.5 million–coming from the photovoltaics production equipment company’s polysilicon segment. Management guidance for FY2011 calls for revenues in the $550 million to $600 million range.

The company posted a net income of $33.3 million in Q410 compared to $36.8 million in Q3. For the full fiscal year, net income was $87.3 million, compared to $88.0 million in FY09. Quarterly operating margin was 28.4% of revenue, compared to 33.2% in the previous period. Annual operating margin was 26.5%, on par with the number for FY09.

At fiscal year-end, the Merrimack, NH-based company’s backlog was $906.2 million, with $464.9 million in the polysilicon segment and $441.3 million in the PV segment. Included in the total backlog was $334.3 million of deferred revenue. The company expects to roll off $449 million of backlog within the next 12 months. Net new orders for the quarter were $244 million.

The company said 62% of its business is in China and that its top five customers account for 64% of its revenues, with one customer representing 34% of the total. The company said it shipped to eight new customers, and that the largest Asian polysilicon plants all use GT equipment in their factories.

“The continued higher order rates we have been experiencing for our DSS furnaces since the third fiscal quarter led to a strong finish to the fiscal year,” said Tom Gutierrez (pictured at right), president/CEO of GT Solar. “Many of our Asian PV customers are running at high utilization rates and making significant investments to increase capacity and better position themselves as low-cost, high-quality suppliers.

“During the fourth quarter, we booked net DSS orders of more than $250 million with a diverse set of customers, including several of the world’s leading low-cost, high-quality PV wafer manufacturers,” he continued. “Our high win-rate in the PV equipment market indicates that existing and new customers recognize that GT Solar’s superior DSS technology delivers greater total value in the form of increased throughput, improved crystal quality, and ultimately lower cost.

“In our polysilicon business, we have seen an improvement in the size and quality of pipeline activity over the last several months.” he added. “While the conversion to revenue is a longer-term process in this business, we believe this activity is a noteworthy positive vector.”

“We are encouraged by the robust demand in the market today and are very well positioned to take advantage of future growth opportunities in the solar industry,” the company exec concluded.

The company’s FY2011 guidance forecasts a 75:25 split between its PV (wafering) and polysilicon segments, respectively, and that 45-50% of the fiscal-year revenues will accrue in the first half of the year. GT expects to see a gross margin in the 38-40% range.

The tool manufacturer believes that polysilicon prices will range between $45 and $55 per kg through calendar 2011. It also sees a significant opportunity for capital equipment sales to support what the company believes will be major capacity growth over the next four years.

GT also claims it can achieve <$25/kg “all-in” polysilicon production costs for a 10,000MT/yr factory, based on best-in-class assumptions.

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