Yingli may shift 4.2GW in 2014

China’s Yingli today guided for as much as 4.2GW of module shipments this year, but profitability remains elusive for the world’s largest solar panel supplier.

Yingli’s 4GW-4.2GW guidance follows on the 3.23GW of modules it shipped in 2013 – itself a more than 40% boost on 2012 shipments, and the largest ever recorded in the PV industry.

2013 was the second straight year that Yingli was the world’s largest supplier of modules, having snatched the title in 2012 from a flailing Chinese rival Suntech Power. If the company meets its shipment guidance, it is virtually guaranteed to remain the world’s number one in 2014.

During the past year Yingli significantly ramped up its downstream projects business and won a number of important module orders in key emerging countries – including a 258MW order in Algeria.

By the end of 2013 Yingli had connected roughly 85MW of capacity to China’s grid (with another 40MW or so built but unconnected), leaving its downstream unit behind the likes of JinkoSolar.

Yet Yingli made clear that it has only started to flex its downstream muscles, unveiling plans to construct another 400MW-600MW during 2014 – including as much as 50MW overseas – all of it fed by in-house modules.

Yingli claims to have a 1GW project pipeline spanning nearly 12 Chinese provinces, and is exploring co-operation models with various large Chinese enterprises, such as China National Nuclear Corporation and Datong Coal Mine Group.

Yet all of Yingli’s successes could not carry it to profitability, as the company’s exposure to high-cost polysilicon contracts continues to weigh on its results.

For the whole of 2013, Yingli lost $321.2m on revenues of $2.22bn – and it recorded a significant deficit in the fourth quarter.

Yingli shares tumbled more than 10% in early New York trading on its latest results, on a day when most solar stocks were sharply up.  

By contrast, most of Yingli’s key Chinese rivals – including Trina Solar and JA Solar – had returned to profitability by the fourth quarter, and two (JinkoSolar and Canadian Solar) were profitable for the whole of 2013.

First Solar, the largest US PV manufacturer, chalked up profits of $353m for 2013 (compared to Jinko’s $68m).