The top 20 PV module manufacturers shipped 8.8GW in the fourth quarter of 2014, generating an estimated US$5.9 billion in revenue, according to market research firm IHS.

Leading PV manufacturers were said to have strengthened their position in the global market last year, emphasised by a 12% increase in fourth quarter revenue, compared to the prior year period. 

IHS said that these suppliers accounted for 68% of global PV module demand in 2014, compared to only 60% in 2011. Based on its latest global installation forecast for 2014, shipments from the top 20 suppliers would exceed 30GW. 

However, the final global demand figures for the year could be higher than those of IHS and should therefore be treated as preliminary and may not reflect the actual market share percentages gained or lost by the leading 20 PV suppliers in 2014.

IHS noted that it expected full-year 2014 module revenue by the leading 20 firms to reach US$21.4 billion.

“PV module revenues of the 20 leading suppliers will continue to grow, as they benefit from both robust global PV demand growth and increasing market share,” said Ray Lian, principal analyst for IHS Technology, formerly with NPD Solarbuzz. “We expect them to reach historic revenue heights, as early as the fourth quarter of 2015.”

Module price declines have meant overall revenue growth from the leading suppliers has yet to surpass levels reached in 2011. 

IHS said that ASPs in the fourth quarter of 2014 were negatively impacted by the strong appreciation of the US dollar against most other currencies, as well as by the higher share of modules shipped to China and other low-ASP regions as PV projects were being rushed through to meet tariff deadlines.  

As a result, the blended ASP of the 20 leading suppliers was said to have declined by 4% compared to the third quarter of 2014. 

Blended module cost-of-goods-sold of the top 20 suppliers was said to have fallen below US$0.6/W, the first time this had happened. The blended cost was said to have fallen to US$0.58/W in the fourth quarter. 

With a measured capacity expansion phase already underway, IHS said that the top suppliers needed to continue to increase revenue in 2015 to support further capacity expansions. 

“To fund their capacity expansion or acquisition, PV module suppliers must continuously increase their revenues,” added Lian. “As these companies gain more market share, we can expect to see further industry consolidation.”

The most recent consolidation seen amongst the top 20 suppliers has been the long-expected merger of Hanwha SolarOne and Hanwha Q CELLS. 

The last consolidation before then was the acquisition of Wuxi Suntech by Shunfeng.

According to PV Tech’s own data, the fastest growing PV manufacturers by shipments are expected to expand capacity at higher levels than other top 20 suppliers that have lagged rivals, with several firms yet to return to profitability in three years, such as Yingli Green, despite being the largest producer in 2012 and 2013. 

The fastest growing leading suppliers include, JA Solar, JinkoSolar and Canadian Solar. Major Japanese suppliers such as Sharp and Kyocera have treaded water in 2014.