Japanese solar cell manufacturers losing market share, says IC Insights

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In a new report from IC Insights, major solar cell manufacturers from Japan are finding the competition tough from relatively new players from the U.S. (First Solar), Germany (Q-Cells SE), China (Suntech) and the likes of Taiwan-based Motech. The 2006 number-one supplier, Sharp, was said to have suffered the most, falling to fourth-ranked supplier by revenue in 2008, according to the market research firm.

However, other Japanese-based suppliers also suffered from the rising competition, the report found. Kyocera slipped from the No. 5 spot in 2007 to No. 6 in 2008. Sanyo, which was No. 7 in the 2007 ranking, did not make IC Insights’ top 10 ranking in 2008. Mitsubishi also saw its position in the rankings fall.

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China is increasingly becoming a major supplier. The report noted that Suntech slipped from No. 2 to No. 3 on MW growth below that of the total global industry, while JA Solar went from No. 10 to No. 7 in the ranking based on 109% growth in MW sales in 2008. Yingli Green Energy move up one spot on the strength of 93% growth.

In Taiwan, Motech Industries overtook Japan-based Kyocera, moving from No. 6 to No. 5, due to a 67% increase in MW sales.

According to IC Insights the most notable climber was Gintech, which equaled First Solar’s growth of 144% in MW sales in 2008, enabling it to move up from No. 12 to No. 8 in the ranking.

The future is set to cause significant disruption to the rankings as the market slows and small revenue increments that separate many of the top players play their part. Also new investments by Sharp in thin film could reverse its loss in share.

The top four suppliers all achieved MW market shares of between 8.0% and 9.5%. IC Insights argues that a second tier of suppliers was formed by those ranked No. 5 through No. 10, all having between 4% and 5% market share, with several additional suppliers close behind.

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