Who are the leaders and laggards of the top 10 PV module manufacturers in 2014?

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PV Tech has analysed the most current PV module shipment guidance figures from last year’s top 10 module manufacturers for 2014, revealing both the leaders and laggards amongst the big manufacturers based on expected shipment growth for the year.

Unquestionably, 2014 has been a recovery year for major PV manufacturers as supply and demand has rebalanced after several years of chronic oversupply. Effective capacity at the beginning of the year stood at around 45GW, which has had to expand to meet demand that looks likely to reach around 50GW in 2014. 

Effective capacity expansions, primarily by tier-one module manufacturers and the majority of the 2013 ranked top 10 producers has been successfully moderated, indicating that lessons have been learned from the dire consequences of overcapacity and a two-year period of profitless prosperity. 

PV Tech’s analysis of capacity expansions in 2014 (though somewhat subjective)  indicate that just over 6GW of effective module capacity has been added in 2014, closely matching expected global end market demand this year. 

Shipment growth laggards in 2014

Current module shipment guidance from the top 10 suppliers based on official shipment figures in 2013 indicates there are two ways to look at laggards in 2014. 

Firstly, and most obviously, this is done by analysis of guided shipment growth in percentage terms compared to their peers. Secondly, an analysis is required as to whether the shipment guidance is sufficient for 2013-ranked manufacturers to retain a ranking in the top 10 or not, as well as whether the shipment growth is insufficient to retain the same ranking in the list. 

As shown in the table, all but one top 10 producer is expected to grow shipments in 2014, compared to the previous year shipments, which is Sharp Corporation. 

Sharp soared up the rankings table in 2013, due to the boom in Japanese PV installations on the back of a highly attractive FiT. However, primarily due to the introduction of a consumption tax in Japan, Sharp warned that it did not expect shipments in 2014 to meet 2013 levels. As a result, Sharp is guiding negative growth within the range of 5-9% for 2014 and therefore tops the laggards list this year. 

However, a second Japanese firm, Kyocera, joins Sharp on the laggards list, based on both laggard criteria. Kyocera is guiding flat to only 17% growth for 2014. And even though taking its high-end shipment growth guidance would not be sufficient to retain a top 10 ranking position. 

Several companies not in the top 10 rankings for last year have guided higher low-end shipment guidance for 2014 than Kyocera and both Japanese firms have already updated guidance half way through November. 

On purely the lowest growth guidance criteria, several other module manufacturers stand out, even when taking the mid-point of guidance for the current year. 

These module shipment growth laggards are headed by Hanwha SolarOne (10% to 15% growth) and First Solar (12% to 19% growth). 

Hanwha SolarOne has been one of the most impacted by the period of profitless prosperity and remains loss-making in 2014. The company has been making major changes to its manufacturing operations with help from sister company Hanwha Q CELLS, but it has become apparent that the turnaround is taking a long time to occur. 

First Solar’s lack of shipment growth compared to its peers in the top 10 rankings was made evident early in the year, when after a year of building large-scale utility projects its 2014 project pipeline was insufficient to keep production utilisation rates at high levels, something that has persisted all year. 

Both Hanwha SolarOne’s and First Solar’s guided shipment growth is also well below the potential global end-market demand growth levels that could top 40% in 2014. 

Interestingly, and somewhat surprising is that the largest module manufacturer by shipments in 2013, Yingli Green, is also a laggard in 2014. The company lowered its 2014 shipment forecast after releasing second quarter financial results. 

The result was shipment guidance growth of 15% to 20% this year, again well below expected global growth levels. Not surprisingly, Yingli Green remains loss making in 2014 and has obviously struggled to grow its customer base compared to many of its peers. 

PV Tech was the first to report that Yingli Green was in danger of losing the number-one position to Trina Solar, based on both companies’ second quarter full-year shipment guidance, which were identical at 3.6GW to 3.8GW. 

The momentum has clearly been with Trina Solar, which as the table shows has guided shipment growth of between 40% and 42% for 2014.

Shipment growth leaders 

As the table shows, there are five (Trina Solar, Canadian Solar, JinkoSolar, ReneSola and JA Solar) top 10 ranked module suppliers guiding shipment growth either similar to expected global growth levels or far in excess. These are clearly the shipment growth leaders in 2014. 

Aside from Trina Solar’s significant shipment growth projections for 2014, especially considering it was the second largest PV module manufacturer by shipments in 2013, one that stands out amongst the list is JinkoSolar, with expected growth of 65% to 85% this year. 

Clearly its acclaimed lowest-cost-producer mantle is a key reason for its continued growth and progress up the rankings over the past several years, and something its guidance of shipments being between 2.9GW and 3.2GW in 2014 will further support. 

Canadian Solar should also be mentioned as it has significantly changed its business model over the last two years and is obviously reaping the rewards of becoming a major PV energy provider firm with around 50% revenue being generated by its PV project business. 

Perhaps the most understated member of the list is ReneSola. If ReneSola has not blazed a trail in the fashion that JinkoSolar has in recent years, with guided shipment growth of 38-45% its business model – of having OEM production partners in key regions – has clearly paid off well in 2014. 

However, the fastest growing company in the top 10 list from 2013 is the company that was ranked 10th, JA Solar. 

JA Solar has just guided module shipment growth in the range of 105% to 114% in 2014, while guiding shipments of between 2.4GW to 2.5GW. 

Not only is the growth rate remarkable and clearly the highest of all top 10 ranked producers but only a few years ago the company was primarily a merchant solar cell producer. Shifting to become predominantly a module supplier has proved to be a huge success and the company is seriously challenging to become a top five ranked supplier in 2014. 

Shipment growth rebounders

Outside the 2013 top 10 rankings, PV Tech has noted with interest that two companies that struggled significantly in 2013 are making a comeback in 2014. 

Firstly, Wuxi Suntech has guided module shipment growth his year in a range of 71-97%, second only to JA Solar. 

Having been in administration last year, Wuxi Suntech only produced 763MW of modules from a nameplate capacity of 2.4GW in 2013. 

Having been acquired by Shunfeng, Wuxi Suntech has rebounded strongly and has an opportunity to be restored soon to the top 10 rankings, which only a few years ago it topped. 

The other company of note that is showing a strong rebound in 2014 is SolarWorld. 
The company came very close to bankruptcy but having restructured its finances has guided shipment growth in the range of 39% to 58% this year. 

Although SolarWorld’s shipment guidance of between 750MW and 850MW is clearly insufficient to enter the top 10 rankings for 2014, the meaningful growth is in line with many of its larger peers in the top 10 rankings. 

With significant shipment growth projections by half of the top 10 producers, PV Tech expects a major reshuffle of ranked positions in 2014 and will be interesting to see if those five keep the same kind of momentum in 2015. 

On the flip side, don’t rule out rebounds from Yingli Green and First Solar.

PV Tech has analysed the most current PV module shipment guidance figures from last years top 10 module manufacturers for 2014, which highlights both the leaders and laggards amongst the big manufacturer expected shipment growth for the year.
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