PV Crystalox wafer shipments up, revenue and profits down: wafer capacity to expand to 600MW

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Updated: Suffering from the rapid price declines for solar wafers in 2009, PV Crystalox Solar saw revenue and profits fall, despite a small increase in wafer shipments, according to its 2009 financial report. PV Crystalox posted revenue of €237.3 million, down 13.4% from 2008 when revenue reached €274.1 million. However, profits were down approximately 70% (€42.5 million in 2009, compared to €147.2 million in 2008) due to the collapse in wafer prices, despite long-term pricing contracts. Total wafer shipment volume was 4% higher than in 2008 at 239MW.

Japan and Germany continued to be the company’s major customer base with 76.9% (2008: 84%) of our revenues obtained in these two countries. However, the company noted that China was now accounting for a larger percentage of its business, increasing from 6% in 2008 to 9% in 2009.

“In spite of a difficult market environment the Group has remained profitable and has generated a positive operational cash flow and maintained its strong balance sheet.  Accordingly, the Group has a good financial platform for the future,” commented Iain Dorrity, Chief Executive Officer, PV Crystalox Solar.

That will greatly depend on the wafer producer continuing to cut production costs while expanding capacity to benefit from greater economies of scale to remain competitive with larger rivals, based primarily in Asia.

A key aspect is the ramp of its polysilicon plant in Bitterfeld, Germany. According to the company, plans remain on track to reach full capacity (1800MT) at the plant in 2010. The solar-grade silicon production facility started operations in July 2009, producing a total of 153MT in 2009. PV Crystalox reported polysilicon output had reached 65MT per month on average for the first two months in 2010, which is expected to more than double per month by the end of 2010.

PV Cystalox noted that its solar grade polysilicon material gave comparable results to externally purchased high purity polysilicon, which enabled the company to incorporate the material into its standard ingot production at an early stage, after customer acceptance.

Another key aspect of its competitive cost requirements is in multi-crystalline ingot production. PV Crystallox noted that it had completed a capacity expansion program that had taken production from 209MW at its plant in Milton Park, UK to 400MW. Due to improvements in yield and productivity optimization, the company was able to top its previously stated 350MW target expansion.

Also due to renewed demand, the company is now taking production capacity to 470MW by leasing a 46,000 sq ft building adjacent to its main production facility. Internal re-arrangement of block production is expected to boost ingot production capacity by a further 200MW to 600MW.
 
A shift to wire sawing use for all ingot production in 2009, including its outsourced wafering in Japan has also reduced kerf-loss significantly. The company claims (120/130µm wire) a 90% reduction in silicon loss, compared with the band saws used previously.

PV Cystalox said that first half year shipments would be in the range of 145-155MW with average prices down 15-20% on second-half year prices in 2009.

Update: According to Libertas Partners financial analyst Titus Menzies in an investor note, said that PV Crystallox’s polysilicon ramp at its plant in Bitterfield, Germany was behind schedule at 153MT, which was below their slowed ramp rate guidance previously given of 200MT by the end of 2009. Menzies, also reported that there were higher ramp-up costs related to the plant.

The financial analyst also calculated that the company had a silicon usage of 6.8g/w and blended poly-Si cost for 2010 of €38/kg.

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