MEMC notes solar wafer price falls stabilizing

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After significant polysilicon and wafer price declines in 2009, MEMC executives have become more upbeat about demand and price stability entering the first quarter of 2010 and beyond. In a conference call to discuss fourth quarter results, the company noted that capacity utilization of silicon wafer production was at approximately 80%, with a demand recovery underway in the semiconductor industry, enabling a firming in prices to that sector. In solar, price declines were said to have moderated and the company was now shipping wafers to 10 of the top 25 PV manufacturers, compared to having made shipments to only 2 solar customers at the beginning of 2009.

“I think pricing stopped declining at a rapid rate we’ve had in the fourth quarter, declined at a rate that we could digest,” commented Tim Oliver, Senior VP and CFO at MEMC in the conference call. “And I think in Q1 we are hoping it would stay stable at that level.”

MEMC reported net sales of US$356.7 million, for the fourth quarter, representing an increase of 15.1% from third quarter 2009 net sales of US$310.0 million, and a decrease of 16.2% from fourth quarter 2008, when net sales were US$425.7 million.

“The fourth quarter marked the third sequential quarterly improvement in revenue as we continue to recover from the economic downturn,” said Ahmad Chatila, MEMC's Chief Executive Officer. “Pricing pressure has moderated, product volumes continued to increase and our efforts to improve our competitive positioning are working.”

MEMC noted in the call that semiconductor wafer prices would rise in the ‘single digit’ range in the first quarter and that the company was converting 200mm wafer production to 300mm at its plant in Korea to meet demand for the larger wafer size.

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