FRANKFURT Phoenix Solar, Germany's sixth-biggest solar company, is expecting business in the ongoing first quarter to be significantly better than in the year-earlier period, the company's chief executive told Reuters.
"The first quarter of 2010 has been going well so far and it will be significantly above the first quarter of 2009," Andreas Haenel said in an interview on Tuesday.
"Of course, the first quarter of 2009 was very, very weak -- for everyone in the industry," he said, adding the only dampening effect in the current quarter was the cold weather.
The first three months of 2009 -- when Phoenix posted sales of just 36 million euros ($48.98 million) and a loss before interest and tax of 7.44 million -- was marked by a massive slump in demand for solar panels.
Haenel's comments come after the company posted forecast-beating results for 2009, but proposed to slash its 2009 dividend to 0.20 euros per share from the 0.30 euros it paid for 2008.
He said that the company -- whose operating cash flow stood at 21.6 million euros at the end of 2009 -- would expand its reach in markets abroad, as looming solar incentive cuts put pressure on Germany, the world's biggest solar market.
"We see positive market signals in Italy and France. And we expect the U.S. market to break through the 1 gigawatt barrier this year, and in 2011 it will be 1.5 gigawatts," Haenel said, adding the U.S. solar market would overtake Germany in the long term.
"Of course, we want to participate in this growth," he said.
(Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Michael Shields)