January 24, 2018 / 9:13 AM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 1-SMA Solar sees sales returning to growth in 2018

* SMA sees 2018 sales at 900 mln-1 bln euros

* Forecast compares with consensus for 901 mln euros

* 2017 sales fall almost 6 percent, miss consensus

* Shares fell on Tuesday after U.S. tariffs on panel imports (Adds details on 2017 sales, shares)

FRANKFURT, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Germany’s biggest solar firm SMA Solar forecast on Wednesday a rise in full-year sales thanks to strong Asian and European business and rising demand for technology used for energy storage, driving its shares up as much as 6 percent.

The stock had slipped 4 percent on Tuesday after U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law a steep tariff on imported solar panels.

The German firm said sales would grow to between 900 million and 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion-$1.2 billion), exceeding the analyst consensus for 901 million euros.

SMA, the last big German solar equipment maker, has been expanding its energy management business, hoping the market will have higher entry barriers for Chinese competitors than its core business of making invertors to feed solar power into the grid.

SMA’s sales fell close to 6 percent to 890 million euros in 2017, dipping below the analyst consensus for 913 million euros due to an industry-wide shortage of chips for inverters.

But earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) came to more than 95 million euros, at the upper end of SMA’s forecast range of 85 million to 100 million euros and above consensus for 92.6 million euros.

Shares were up 5.7 percent at 38.48 euros by 0848 GMT, making them the biggest gainers on the German technology index TecDAX, which was 0.4 percent lower.

$1 = 0.8120 euros Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Emma Thomasson and Edmund Blair

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