FRANKFURT Sharp Corp, the world's No.3 maker of solar cells, sees revenues from its cell business growing by more than 10 percent in the current fiscal year on strong German demand, a company executive told Reuters.
"We aim for sales of more than 500 million euros ($616.2 million) in Europe," Peter Thiele, the executive vice president of its European solar activities, said in an interview late on Monday, adding last year's sales came in at about 450 million.
In the current fiscal year, the company wants to grow global solar cell sales to 250 billion yen ($2.70 billion), compared with 208.7 billion yen a year earlier, as the company benefits from strong demand in Germany, the world's biggest solar market.
Sharp, also the world's fourth-largest LCD TV maker, mainly competes with sector leader First Solar, China's Suntech and Germany's Q-Cells in the production of solar cells.
Sharp's solar cell business accounted for 7.3 percent of the company's total sales in the fiscal year through March 2010.
Solar companies around the world are currently taking advantage of booming demand in Germany ahead of changes in the law for solar subsidies, which will lead to cuts in so-called feed-in tariffs of at least 16 percent.
Uncertainty has gripped the global solar elite, fearing that lower subsidies will attract less customers, while prices for solar products could drop further due to overcapacities.
"We will see a small slump in demand in Germany in the second half of the year, which we try to compensate through (business in) other countries," Thiele said, pointing to France and Belgium as potential growth drivers.
According to EPAI, the world's largest photovoltaic industry association, the French market could almost quadruple in 2010 to 700 megawatts of new installation, while Germany will remain the global No.1 with up to 4.5 gigawatts.
Thiele said Sharp could not lower prices in line with the envisaged cuts in German solar subsidies and it would rely on its strong brand name, even though it sees strong pricing pressure from Chinese peers.
"Chinese peers are operating in a (pricing) area which is very difficult for us to reach," he said.
(Reporting by Christoph Steitz)