Westinghouse Solar CEO sees profit next year

NEW YORK Mon Oct 3, 2011 2:53pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Westinghouse Solar Inc expects to start posting profits next year after years of losses, as a deal to buy cheaper solar panels should help it cut prices and increase sales, its chief executive told Reuters.

Westinghouse, which makes solar power systems, earlier this year signed a deal to buy solar panels from China's Lightway, reducing its near-total dependence on Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd.

"As long as we were buying from Suntech, it was impossible for us to achieve fully competitive market pricing. But now we are able to do that because of our new supplier," Westinghouse founder and CEO Barry Cinnamon said in an interview.

Solar product prices have fallen by more than a third this year due to oversupply stemming from subsidy cuts in top markets Germany and Italy. At least three U.S-based companies have already been forced to file for bankruptcy protection.

Westinghouse, formerly known as Akeena Solar, has been posting losses for years and exited its solar installation business last year. Its losses, however, have fallen gradually and the company has posted narrower-than-expected losses in five of the last six quarters.

"We are definitely expecting (a profit) next year," said Cinnamon, an alumnus of MIT and Wharton.

"It's possible that the whole year could be profitable. We are expecting to be profitable when sales per month ramps up to $3 million to $3.5 million."

The Campbell, California-based company is expected to have sales of $34.2 million next fiscal year, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Westinghouse shares, having lost about 60 percent of their value this year, were down 11 percent at 66 cents Monday afternoon on Nasdaq. The wider WilderHill Clean Energy index fell about 6 percent as analyst downgrades of many solar company price targets, including that on First Solar Inc, weighed on the already fragile sector.

(Reporting by Krishna N Das in New York, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

(This story corrects spelling of Westinghouse in headline from previous story)

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