UPDATE 2-Germany's SolarWorld sees soaring demand in 2010

Thu Mar 25, 2010 9:41am EDT

* Expects German market volume of 5 gigawatts in 2010

* Little visibility for 2011, depends on law changes

* Says revenues so far this year exceed those in Q1 2009

* Shares up 3.3 percent

(Adds quotes, background, updates shares)

By Christoph Steitz

BONN, March 25 (Reuters) - SolarWorld AG SWVG.DE, Germany's No.1 solar company, joined peers in seeing strong growth in its domestic market in 2010 but cautioned next year would depend on the effect of solar subsidy cuts.

"We expect volumes in the German solar market to be about 5 gigawatts this year," Chief Executive Frank Asbeck told reporters on Thursday, signalling massive growth after an expected 3 gigawatts for 2009.

Germany, the world's largest market for solar products, has seen demand rocket so far this year as customers bring forward orders to take advantage of solar power subsidies before large one-off cuts later in the year. [ID:nLDE62E0W0] [ID:nLDE61816B] [ID:nLDE60J0PA]

Asbeck confirmed the trend, saying the company's revenue generated so far this year was already significantly higher than in the first quarter of last year, when it generated sales of 176 million euros.

Shares in SolarWorld, which tumbled to a near five-year low of 9.15 euros earlier this month, were up 3.3 percent at 1311 GMT, outperforming a 0.5 percent gain in FTSE cleantech index .FTET50.

UNCERTAIN 2011

Asbeck's statement came a day after Q-Cells AG QCEG.DE, the world's fourth-largest maker of solar cells, said demand in Germany would be strong in the first year. However, it also warned that demand could collapse in 2011 as solar subsidy cuts will be cut further. [ID:nLDE62M1R0]

Asbeck, too, took a cautious view. "Growth in 2011 will entirely depend on the impact of the changes of the German renewable law," he said, declining further comment on business performance in 2011.

Despite looming cuts in solar incentives in Germany and an industry crisis caused by overcapacity, SolarWorld is still one of the few profitable players, even proposing a higher dividend for 2009. [ID:nWEB5647]

The company last month released full-year 2009 figures and disappointing markets by giving a weak outlook. [ID:nLDE61N14K]

Earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) for 2009 came in at 152 million euros, mainly because a more diverse product palette helped it escape a margin squeeze that has hit pure cell or module producers such as Q-Cells and Solon SE SOOG.DE.

But analysts have warned that the company's EBIT margin may come under intense pressure this year due to the need for cost reductions and lower selling prices. [ID:nLDE62226N]

Chief Financial Officer Philipp Koecke said the company's 2009 margin of 15 percent was still above those of its main competitors, China's Suntech STP.N and Yingli (YGE.N). Both companies have only reported key figures for 2009. (Editing by David Holmes) ($1=.7508 Euro)