Trina Solar Shipments Exceeded Forecast on China Sales

Trina Solar Ltd. shipped 415 megawatts of solar panels in the fourth quarter, a 9.1 percent gain that exceeded its forecast after a surge in sales in China.

Shipments rose from 380.3 megawatts in the third quarter, and were above the Chinese manufacturer’s forecast for as much as 400 megawatts, “primarily due to increased sales to China-based customers,” Changzhou, China-based Trina said today in a statement. That still came in lower than the 425 megawatts shipped in the same quarter of 2011.

After a price drop eroded panel makers’ profits over the past two years, Trina is pushing toward a return to profitability, Chief Financial Officer Terry Wang said on a conference call today.

“Pricing has stabilized,” he said. “We’re not looking for only market share expansion, now we realize we think about profitability as top priority.”

Margins will improve as the company cuts costs by about 10 percent this year, Wang said. Costs will fall faster than panel prices and as the price of polysilicon, the raw material used to make most solar panels, stays “relatively stable,” he said.

Trina said it shipped 1.6 gigawatts of panels last year and expects to reach 2 gigawatts to 2.1 gigawatts this year.

‘Profitless Prosperity’

The company sees increased adoption of solar and new markets within Africa, the Americas and the Middle East, Chairman Jifan Gao said in the statement. “We are also encouraged by recent announcements in Asia, most notably in China and Japan, that governments are strengthening their commitment to solar energy.”

Trina is advancing plans to develop solar farms using its own modules in a bid to tap more diverse streams of revenue after a global glut of panels and slowing sales in Europe made manufacturing the technology unprofitable.

“Aggressive pricing” for modules by competitors continues to “adversely” impact Trina’s profits, Gao said. Trina expects to start grid-scale projects in China and the Americas this year, he said.

Trina said its net loss widened to $267 million in 2012 from $38 million a year earlier. The net margin was minus 20.6 percent, compared with minus 1.8 percent in 2011.

The quarter’s results “exemplify what we call profitless prosperity,” said Pavel Molchanov, analyst at Raymond James & Associates Inc. in Houston. “Commodity module pricing is simply too low for profitability.”

Trina said it received a total of $250 million in credit lines from China Development Bank Corp. during the fourth quarter. It had $1.29 billion in bank borrowings and during the fourth quarter repurchased $5 million of convertible notes due in July 2013, resulting in a gain of $600,000, according to the statement.

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