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Q-Cells beats 1GW as new strategy pays off

22 Feb 2011

The German manufacturer of photovoltaic cells, modules and systems reports an 84% increase in production on strong demand in 2010.

Q-Cells, one of the world’s top producers of solar cells, bounced back to profitability in 2010 as widespread demand drove an 84% increase in its production volumes.

The company, which is headquartered in Bitterfeld-Wolfen, manufactured 940 MW (peak) of solar cells and 74 MW (peak) of copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) thin-film modules during the year. It broke the 1 GW barrier for the first time on strong demand in its domestic market of Germany and a growing impact around the world as it diversified its geographical base successfully.

Figures released by Germany Trade & Invest on February 21 showed that installations in Q-Cells’ home market doubled in 2010 to more than 7 GW (peak), reaching a cumulative total of 17 GW (peak). The industry in Germany is now said to be worth €10 billion annually, although a sharp slow-down in growth is expected in the middle of this year as cuts to feed-in tariffs kick in.

Q-Cells’ management made some major strategic changes to the business back in summer 2009, as the company suffered in the wake of the global financial crisis and low-cost Chinese competitors. Those changes now look to be paying off. Nedim Cen, who took over as CEO almost exactly a year ago, said:

“Our figures show that we have made the right strategic decision, by adding products and systems with stronger margins to our portfolio. We will continue to implement this strategy, especially as the market is more challenging in 2011.”

In terms of sales, Q-Cells posted revenues of €1.35 billion for 2010, up from €790.4 million in 2009. That had a huge impact on the bottom line, with the company registering an operating income of €82.3 million, compared with a loss of €362.5 million for the previous year.

Altered strategy
Demonstrating the impact of the altered strategy, Q-Cells highlighted that 27% of its sales in 2010 were attributable to the new business areas of solar modules and medium-sized commercial and industrial PV systems. The company uses its own high-quality cells in those new product lines, helping with the utilization of its factories in Germany and Malaysia.

In terms of international development, Q-Cells said that 67% of its output was exported in the fourth quarter of 2010, and noted that it had already been awarded projects worth a total of 120 MW (peak) in North America.

Having now expanded its production capacity to 1.3 GW (peak), Q-Cells is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of solar cells. In the final quarter of 2010, it also witnessed a sharp increase in demand for CIGS modules, shipping 16 MW (peak) – up from 7 MW (peak) sequentially.

The company did not provide any forecast for 2011, beyond its description of the market as “more challenging”, although there has been positive sentiment from some of the major solar companies in recent days, suggesting that markets outside of Germany will be able to take up much of the slack generated by the cut to the German feed-in tariff.

For Q-Cells, the priorities are to continue expanding sales of modules and systems, while focusing research and development efforts on high-performance crystalline silicon and thin-film CIGS technologies.

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