Global industry association SEMI has reported that PV manufacturing equipment bookings in 2012 slumped 74% to only US$1.31 billion, down from US$4.97 billion in 2011.
The worldwide manufacturing equipment book-to-bill ratio was reported to have remained significantly below parity at 0.45, the seventh consecutive quarter below parity level, echoing the massive levels of overcapacity that existed across the manufacturing supply chain and significant cuts in manufacturers' capital expenditures.
It was unclear whether the deep fall in bookings and book-to-bill ratio in the first half of 2012 was primarily due to equipment companies de-booking orders as the overcapacity situation forced manufacturers to cancel orders or delay shipments longer than one year, which would force many suppliers to de-book.
Fourth quarter 2012 worldwide bookings, improved just 1% percent compared to the previous quarter; however, fourth quarter bookings were down 48% year-over-year.
SEMI said that worldwide billings declined 15% in the fourth quarter, compared to the previous quarter. On a year-over-year basis, billings declined 39%.
Total billings for the full year 2012 fell to US$2.55 billion, a 59% decline from 2011 billings of US$6.18 billion, according to SEMI.
Not surprisingly, equipment sales were dominated by the Asia region, accounting for 80% of total billings in 2012.
Although Asia remains the major market for equipment sales, the majority of PV manufacturers have already guided continued tight control of capital expenditure, keeping spending restricted to maintenance requirements and small levels of equipment upgrades. Higher utilisation rates in 2013 are expected but not enough to spark a capacity buy cycle in 2013 as rates are in 2012 were below 50% for many manufacturers, according to NPD Solarbuzz.