Chinese 'raising PV prices' – Conergy

Chinese module-makers have raised their prices for deliveries to the European Union in anticipation of possible anti-dumping or countervailing duties from Brussels, German PV company Conergy said.

“Asian producers are reacting with higher prices already in the run-up [to an EU ruling]”, Conergy CEO Philip Comberg said during a conference call discussing its 2012 results.

Chief operating officer Alexander Gorski claimed Chinese companies in the first quarter of 2013 have already upped their prices by 15% for product they deliver with import duties already paid. Deliveries for which duties have not been pre-paid have come to a virtual standstill, Gorski added.

Companies importing products have the option to buy goods either with duty paid by the foreign company, or to settle import duties themselves later.

The matter has become more relevant since the European Commission earlier this month ordered EU member states to start registering imports of Chinese modules, which would allow duties to be applied retroactively.

The cost of retroactive tariffs would fall on the Asian exporters, not EU-based buyers, if they sold the goods with duties pre-paid.

Last September, the Commission opened an investigation into alleged dumping of Chinese PV kit on the European market, and two months later began looking at allegations of illegal subsidies for Chinese companies at home. A preliminary ruling is expected around June.

Conergy’s Gorski claimed his company is now “very competitive” compared to Chinese rivals with the products it manufactures itself. Conergy, however, buys a substantial part of PV modules from suppliers after it thinned-out its own production and gave up certain businesses altogether, such as wafer and cell production.

CEO Comberg stressed that the company is not commenting on the anti-dumping process, which has a potential for market distortions. “Free trade is a precious commodity for any economy,” he said.

In general, Conergy thinks the price pressure on “solar components” such as wafers and modules has ebbed down somewhat after a massive collapse in prices in the fourth quarter, Comberg said. Prices may even temporarily rise, he added.

“To speak of a positive development is relative, though, as the price decline was so dramatic in the past two years,” Comberg said.

That doesn’t mean the industry is off the hook yet, however. Conergy still sees price pressure for the whole year of 2013 – albeit far less than in previous years, a press official said.