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France’s Solar Suppliers Urge Industry Consolidation

Schneider Electric SA, Mersen and Air Liquide SA, which sell electrical equipment, graphite and gases to solar-panel makers, said the photovoltaic industry must consolidate to rebound from a price war.

“We are going through a cleaning up of the market,” Schneider Chief Financial Officer Emmanuel Babeau said on a conference call today as he commented on declining sales to the solar industry. “There are too many players,” and the market will rebound as PV power prices become competitive “quicker than some could expect.”

“Chinese cell-producers have financial difficulties, they are restructuring,” and waiting for European anti-dumping measures following U.S. measures, Thomas Baumgartner, chief financial officer of Mersen, said yesterday. “Chinese cell makers should maybe consolidate to enable a quick pickup.”

About 180 solar manufacturers will probably fail or get bought by 2015 as overcapacity and low prices drive a wave of consolidation, GTM Research said this month. Almost half of those companies are based in the U.S., Europe and Canada, where manufacturing costs are high and producers can’t compete with lower-cost panels from China, the Boston-based researcher said.

“Our top tier Chinese customers should continue to do well” as they face “very fast” growing demand for panels, Air Liquide Senior Executive Vice-President Pierre Dufour said on a conference call today. “In every zone of the world, the lower tier customers will be struggling and a lot of them will probably be consolidated out or fade away.”

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