SolarOne mulls module expansion

Hanwha SolarOne did not return to profitability in 2013 and it did not pull the lid off any major strategic co-operations, but its full-year financial results, published today, still sent the company’s shares soaring more than 25% in early trading.

SolarOne became the latest PV manufacturer to suggest it will soon begin expanding its production capacity. The company says it is “giving active consideration” to lifting its cell and module capacity to 1.5GW and 2GW, respectively – up from 1.3GW and 1.5GW at present.

SolarOne’s module shipments grew a stunning 54% last year, to 1.28GW, and it expects 2014 shipments of 1.5GW-1.6GW.

All told, SolarOne saw its full-year revenues grow 28.5% to 4.73bn yuan ($780.6m), while its net loss narrowed to 759.8m yuan – from a 1.47bn yuan deficit in 2012.

SolarOne “would have recorded profitability” for 2013 were it not for a number of one-off impairment charges, including a 113.2m yuan inventory write down, says chief executive Ki-Joon Hong.

Several large China-based PV manufacturers, most notably Canadian Solar and JinkoSolar, were profitable for the whole of 2013.

SolarOne remained loss-making in the final quarter of 2013, but only just, recording a net loss of 21.8m yuan.

“We are optimistic that 2014 will prove to be a much stronger year for the company, with further shipment growth and additional reductions in our cost structure – including notably better operating metrics at our internal ingot and wafer facility,” Hong says.

On a day when shares of most US-listed solar companies were down, Hanwha SolarOne shares soared in early trading, and were still up more than 11% at mid-day.

In recent months SolarOne signed several memoranda of understanding related to potential downstream “strategic partnerships”. None have yet turned into concrete agreements.

The company nevertheless stood by its intention to establish a “downstream presence in China” and grow its business in China “by leveraging several strategic partnerships”.

SolarOne guided for a full-year 2014 gross margin of 15-20%, compared to the 7.1% it notched up last year – and a negative 8.8% in 2012.

The world’s eighth largest module supplier last year, according to NPD Solarbuzz, SolarOne was acquired in 2010 by Korea’s Hanwha Group – having previously been named Solarfun.