Q-Cells hit by module quality issues: expanding projects and sales internationally

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Delayed module shipments in connection with quality issues at suppliers dogged Q-Cells in the third quarter, though sales increased 20% on the previous quarter to reach €402 million. The company reported total production volumes for solar cells and thin-film solar modules at 305MW, an increase of 28% on the second quarter. However, the quality issues saw shipments of crystalline modules fall by nearly half to 26MW, compared to 44MW in the second quarter.

Q-Cells said that the major financial restructuring of the company had been completed. 

EBIT was reported at € 37 million, up 35% from the second quarter, which represented a margin increase from 8% in the second quarter to 9% in the third quarter, benefited by stable pricing. 

For the first nine months of 2010, sales reached €967million, EBIT amounted to €55 million. Production figures for the first nine months of 2010 amounted to 717MW.

Q-Cells noted that for the first time cell production at its plant in Malaysia exceeded production in Germany, reaching the nameplate capacity of 600MW.

Q-Cells also raised its revenue forecast for the year. Total sales of more than €1.3 billion are expected, slightly up from previous guidance of between €1.2 – €1.3 billion. EBIT of around €75 to 80 million is expected for the full year 2010.

“With the restructuring and refinancing completed our main focus now has to be on securing competitiveness, driving the internationalisation of the business, and establishing Q-Cells firmly as a photovoltaics solution provider,” commented, Nedim Cen, CEO of Q-Cells SE. 

With a greater emphasis on the downstream market, Q-Cells noted that it had secured a project pipeline of approximately 110MW with local partners in Ontario, Canada, through 2011, and that the North American market would be a key focus of the company next year.

However, 2011 was said to be ‘more challenging market environment.’

“The restructuring measures continue to deliver results. However, tight cost control and management of investments and the liquidity position will stay in the focus going forward,” added Cen. 

Strategic Roadmap

The company also highlighted that it expected to benefit from the move into the downstream market to take advantage of its ‘premium image,’ to grow its customer footprint and achieve better pricing for its products, as it would also be using its own cells for its expanding module business.

Part of the move downstream will see Q-Cells expand into what it said was the more attractive and strongly growing medium-sized commercial and industrial systems business, which was categorized as in the 0.3–5MW range.

However, its in-house-developed large-scale utility projects would be expanded to include Germany, Italy, and France as well as North America and Australia.

The international expansion is seen as key to future growth with Q-Cells also expanding its sales network presence in England, Czech Republic, China, India, Japan and Australia.

R&D activities are to be focused on core technologies c-Si (from cells to systems) and CIGS thin film with Solibro. Q-Cells said that it is targeting monocrystalline cell efficiencies of 20% and multicrystalline efficiencies of 18%, both of which are expected to be in pilot production by end of 2011.

With respect to CIGS efficiencies, Q-Cells said that it had already achieved 16.7% in laboratory tests, though didn’t outline production plans. However production runs at Solibro were said to be stable, but sales volumes and production were lower than expected. Q-Cells will increase its sales force that will focus on CIGS module sales.

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