* Q1 EBIT 17.7 million euros, vs 14.5 million forecast
* Still sees 2011 sales at 690-710 million euros
* No M&A target for now, CFO says
* Shares rise 4 percent to top of TecDAX
(Adds CFO, analyst comment, background, share reaction)
By Christoph Steitz and Anneli Palmen
FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF, May 10 Centrotherm CTNG.DE, the world's No.2 solar equipment maker, stuck to its outlook when posting forecast-beating results driven by strong demand from Asia, sending its shares higher.
Centrotherm said on Tuesday it made 84 percent of first-quarter sales in Asia, home to the largest solar cell and module makers, which have eaten into Europe's market share of the solar industry in recent years.
First-quarter sales reached 189 million euros ($270 million), while earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) came in at 17.7 million, beating Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S estimates for sales of 153 million and EBIT of 14.5 million.
"(The) numbers are clearly better than our estimates and consensus expectations. The results also underline that the companies full-year forecast is conservative in our view," DZ Bank analyst Sven Kuerten said, keeping a "buy" rating.
Centrotherm said it still expected 2011 sales of 690-710 million euros and a low double-digit margin for EBIT. Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S estimates 2011 sales at 703 million euros.
Graphic on global equipment market share:
ANALYSIS-Solar equipment makers: [ID:nL3E7FE1AJ]
Chief executive Robert Hartung gave a positive outlook.
"We take an optimistic view of the future because photovoltaics, in combination with other renewable energy sources, makes a key contribution to realising an exit from the nuclear energy option."
Germany saw a backlash against nuclear energy after the earthquake in Japan.
A renewed push for tapping renewable energy sources has led to bigger M&A deals in recent weeks, most notably Total's (TOTF.PA) $1.37 billion offer for up to 60 percent of SunPower SPWRA.O in late April. [ID:nN02254935]
In addition, German authorities last week approved Meyer Burger's (MBTN.S) 356 million euro bid for German grou Roth & Rau R8RG.DE, a competitor to Centrotherm. [ID:nLDE73A05Y]
Centrotherm chief financial officer Thomas Riegler ruled out the company becoming prey in the current consolidation push. Centrotherm's website says 50.09 percent of the company's shares are owned by TCH, majority owned by Hartung. [ID:nWEA9848] (Editing by David Holmes and Dan Lalor) ($1 = 0.7000 euro)