Phoenix Solar returns to the black

Phoenix Solar has pocketed its first quarterly profit since 2010, capping a year of huge turnaround for the German PV group – and underscoring the reviving fortunes of the global solar sector.

At just €200,000 ($270,000), the third-quarter profit barely scratches the surface of the losses the Sulzemoos-based company piled up over the past few years. Phoenix’s losses totalled more than €120m in 2011-2012.

Still, it signifies a turning point in Phoenix’s recovery efforts, the company having earlier this year completed a sweeping restructuring process and replaced founder and long-time chief executive Andreas Hänel with chief financial officer Bernd Köhler.

Phoenix’s operating profit in the third quarter hit €2.2m, compared to a deficit of €4m during the same period last year.

Revenues through the first three quarters fell modestly to €116m from €125.1m last year, due largely to Phoenix having closed its trading and projects business in Germany.

The company stood by its earlier guidance of a 2013 operating loss of €2m-€7m, but says it now expects to come in at the healthier end of that spectrum.

“We still have a long way to go on our path out of the severe crisis,” says Köhler. “Our strategy is nevertheless now showing clear signs of success.”

The European PV market has “bottomed out”, market researcher NPD Solarbuzz said yesterday, with the EU to add 10.5GW of capacity this year, and begin growing again next year off a more sustainable foundation.

Like integrator rivals such as SAG Solarstrom, which today said it expects to be profitable during the whole of 2013, Phoenix has pivoted strongly towards markets outside of Germany and even Europe – including reversing course earlier this year on a previous decision to shutter its Middle East subsidiary.

This summer Phoenix, whose shares have risen nearly five-fold this year, unveiled an order to build the largest PV array in the company’s history – a 37MW plant in the US state of Georgia.