Yingli losses grow in Q1

Yingli saw its net loss widen significantly in the first quarter of 2013 on lower revenues and higher operating costs, hammering home the reality that China’s PV powerhouses are not yet out of the woods, in spite of the recent solar rally.

In reporting its financial results, the world’s largest supplier of PV modules unexpectedly announced it has swapped the positions of two of its key executives, with chief financial officer Zongwei Li and chief strategy officer Yiyu Wang to immediately switch roles. No explanation for the change was given.

Revenues fell and losses mounted for Baoding-based Yingli, mirroring the performance yesterday of its closest Chinese rival Trina. Shares in both companies are up 39% in 2013, representing significantly more modest gains than those seen by Chinese peers such as JA Solar and Canadian Solar.

Yingli reported a net loss equivalent to $104.7m in the first quarter, compared to a loss of $45.7m during the year-ago period.

Quarterly revenues slumped nearly 15% year-on-year to $440m, although chief executive Liansheng Miao indicated that the average selling price of Yingli modules has risen modestly since late 2012.

On the bright side, Yingli’s gross margin returned to the positive – at 4.1%, compared to a negative 8.5% in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Miao flagged Europe, the US and Japan as the pillars of Yingli’s sales in the quarter, saying: “Europe remained strong as a result of the pull-in demand in the first quarter, and we continue to see firm demand in Europe in the second quarter.”

Yingli, among the best known PV brands in many European markets, would likely be hard hit by EU tariffs.

In contrast, sales in China appear to have been slow in the first quarter, due in part to natural seasonality.

But Miao says Chinese demand is picking “quickly” on the back of utility-scale projects. “In addition, we are also actively positioning ourselves for the upcoming opportunities in the distributed generation segment in China,” he says.

The company has already made sizeable dents in a number of critical emerging markets, as evidenced by the 96MW South African order it announced this morning, and the 10MW order it bagged recently in Malaysia.

Although module shipments fell 6.4% sequentially, the company held to its huge 3.2GW-3.3GW guidance for 2013 – up nearly 40% on its record-setting performance last year.

Yingli, which like many Chinese manufacturers bears significant debts, bought itself breathing room last month by nabbing a fresh $165m package of loans from China Development Bank.