UPDATE 2-Canadian Solar cuts shipment forecast, bets on power plants

Thu Nov 15, 2012 11:43am EST

* Cuts full-year shipment forecast to 1.5 GW-1.6 GW, from 1.8 GW-2.0 GW

* Expects 4th-qtr gross margins of 1 pct-3 pct, vs 2.2 pct in 3rd qtr

* Expects 4th-qtr shipments of 380 MW-420 MW, vs 384 MW in 3rd qtr

* 3rd-qtr revenue down 35 percent

Nov 15 (Reuters) - Canadian Solar Inc lowered its shipment forecast for the year as solar panel prices remained depressed and said it was looking to its lucrative power plants business to drive growth.

The company's shares fell 4 percent to $2.20 on the Nasdaq.

Solar companies have been hit by global oversupply that has erased margins across the industry. Companies such as First Solar Inc and SunPower Corp are trying to improve margins by developing large power plants.

Canadian Solar, which pins its hopes on the U.S. power plants business, has orders to build projects of up to 130 megawatt (MW) in 2013.

The company expects to generate more than half of its 2013 revenue from its total solutions business, which covers everything from the making of solar cells to the installation of plants, Chief Executive Shawn Qu said on a call with analysts.

The share of the total solutions business to the company's revenue rose to 21.5 percent in the third quarter from 5.5 percent in the second quarter.

The company's project pipeline was about 243 MW at the end of the third quarter, with 5 MW expected to be built in the fourth quarter.

"The company does appear to be focusing on a shift downstream ... but we've heard similar comments from many module manufacturers, and ... it's easier said than done," said Raymond James analyst Alex Morris.

First Solar and SunPower reported stronger-than-expected quarterly results earlier this month as their project businesses rose.

IMPORT DUTIES WEIGH

Canadian Solar posted a bigger-than-expected loss, weighed down by a steep fall in prices and recently imposed import duties in the United States.

The United States last week gave final approval to duties on billions of dollars of solar equipment imports from China, where Canadian Solar makes most of its products.

Canadian Solar said it recorded a charge of $2.1 million related to the countervailing duty on its products imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

"We did accrue the cost of the duty into our cost of goods sold in the first quarter and second quarter relative to the modules sold in the United States. Because the duty changed, we had to true up the accrual," said Daniel Heck, senior director of EMEA marketing.

The company, which has to pay countervailing duties of about 15 percent in the United States, said last week it would work with its cell supply partners outside China to reduce the impact from U.S. duties. The duty was expected to be 4 percent.

Canadian Solar cut its full-year shipment forecast to 1.5 gigawatt (GW) to 1.6 GW from its previous projection of 1.8 GW to 2.0 GW. Fourth-quarter shipments are expected to be between 380 megawatts MW and 420 MW, compared with 384 MW in the third quarter.

Canadian Solar said gross margins are expected to be between 1 percent and 3 percent in the fourth quarter, down from 2.2 percent in the preceding quarter.

Net loss slightly dipped to $43.7 million, or $1.01 per share, in the third quarter, from $43.9 million, or $1.02 per share, a year earlier. Revenue fell 35 percent to $326 million.

Analysts on average had expected a loss of 65 cents per share, on revenue of $355.1 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.