Sales at Q-Cells fell by approximately 46% in the first quarter of 2011 to €125.1 million, compared to €232.3 million in the first quarter of 2010. The company cited a string of market issues that were responsible for the crash in sales, held higher by the sale of a utility-scale project in Strasskirchen, Germany, that provided proceeds of €72.5 million and the €20 million sale of electricity trading company QCCS at the end of 2010.
Net loss for the first quarter was €41.1 million, compared to a net loss of €46.4 million in the same period a year ago. Net working capital increased from €339.8 million to €494.2 million in the first quarter of 2011.
Q-Cells noted that sales had had been impacted by the regulatory uncertainty in Italy and France as well as seasonal weakness. Margins had also been squeezed due to falling selling prices in the quarter and higher purchasing prices for solar wafers and silver paste, which has seen significant price rises this year. Silver is used for solar cell contacts.
The company cautioned against providing a forecast on operating income for 2011, citing "considerable uncertainties," which will be present for the second half of the year. However, Q-Cells noted that should an increase in demand return in the second-half of the year, coupled with a stabilisation of sales prices and a fall in wafers and silver prices, then "a positive operating income for the full year is to be expected."
Q-Cells also reported that the production of solar cells and thin-film modules totalled 313MWp in the first quarter of 2011. The Malaysian cell manufacturing plant produced 163MWp of solar cells out of a combined 284MWp of solar cells in the quarter. The production of CIGS thin-film solar modules at Solibro reached 29MWp, up over 74% compared to the same period a year ago.