* Fully booked on panels through second quarter
* Company sees panel prices stable in Q1
* Expects panel prices to fall in second half of year (Adds analyst quote on prices, paragraphs 5-7, byline)
LOS ANGELES, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd's STP.N solar panel is sold out through at least the second quarter of 2010, a company executive said on Tuesday.
“We were basically in a sold-out situation in Q4 and we’re in a sold-out situation at least through Q2,” Steve Chadima, vice president of external affairs at Suntech, said at a conference hosted by Needham and Co in New York.
“We’re basically selling anything we can produce and I know we’re not alone,” Chadima said.
Demand for solar power products has rebounded after a difficult 2009, when the global credit crisis dried up financing for new projects and panel prices plummeted.
Still, prices for solar panels are not expected to rise significantly in 2010, said Simmons and Co analyst Burt Chao.
“There’s no room for prices to rise,” Chao said, citing pricing competition among solar players and the natural decline in price for panels that convert sunlight into electricity.
Chao also said that installers were buying ahead of expected cuts in solar aid in Germany, which is affecting the current supply of solar parts.
Chinese players such as Suntech, Trina Solar Ltd TSL.N and Canadian Solar Inc CSIQ.O have seized on rising demand, turning their low-cost structures into sales, and several plan to boost production capacity in 2010.
As the market picks up, Suntech is seeing demand from more countries, Chadima said.
Germany, the world’s top solar market, accounts for less than half the company’s sales. Japan, which recently introduced incentives to spur solar power adoption, is “coming back very strong,” he said.
China’s solar market, which many expect to grow massively, needs another nine to 18 months to take off because the Chinese government’s proposed aid for the sector is low, Chadima said.
Analysts have noted that expected reductions to Germany’s supports for the solar sector have pulled demand forward.
Suntech, which has been lobbying the German government on those changes, expects those cuts to be about 10 percent and to occur in the middle of 2010, Chadima said.
With stable prices for panels and efforts to cut other costs, the Suntech has maintained gross margins for its panels at about 20 percent, Chadima said.
Suntech shares were down 2 percent in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Suntech’s shares have gained about 250 percent since falling to a low of $5.09 in March. Its shares were down 3.6 percent to $17.53 in early afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Laura Isensee. Editing by Robert MacMillan, Leslie Gevirtz)
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