June 17, 2014 / 1:00 PM / in 4 years

UPDATE 2-Yingli expects higher demand in China

* Sees 2nd-qtr shipments 870-950 MW

* Sees gross margin 14-16 pct

* 1st-qtr gross margin 15.7 pct vs 4.1 pct last year

* Shares up as much as 11.4 pct (Adds outlook from conference call, updates share movement)

June 17 (Reuters) - Chinese solar panel maker Yingli Green Energy Holding Co Ltd said it expects higher module shipments in the second quarter led by increased demand in its domestic market.

The company’s first-quarter net loss nearly halved as a marginal rise in panel prices and a tight lid on costs helped boost margins.

Yingli shares jumped as much as 11.4 percent to become one of the top percentage gainers on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday morning.

The company, whose panels will power the Maracana stadium in Brazil during the 2014 FIFA World Cup final, said it expects to ship about 870-950 megawatt (MW) modules in the second quarter ending June 30.

Yingli shipped 630.8 MW modules in the first quarter ended March 31.

“Beginning second quarter, we have seen a significant upbeat in the demand from China as well as emerging markets... and expect this trend to continue through 2014,” Chief Financial Officer Yiyu Wang said on a post-earnings conference call.

Rival Trina Solar Ltd had also forecast higher shipments for the second quarter, helped by improving demand from China.

Investors have feared that China will miss its target of installing 14.5 gigawatt of solar capacity this year due to a lack of funds to build smaller projects.

Yingli is confident that the Chinese market will be larger and more reliable, and expects the government to announce new incentives to support the solar distribution market, Wang said.

The company expects overall gross margin of 14-16 percent in the second quarter.

Margins rose to 15.7 percent in the first quarter from 12.2 percent a in the fourth quarter to offset a 33 percent fall in shipments from fourth-quarter levels.

“The increase ... was mainly due to the change of geographic mix of (panel) sales with the portion of sales to higher price markets up as well as our continuously enhanced cost control,” Yingli said.

Net loss narrowed to $55 million, or 35 cents per American Depositary Share (ADS), from $98.5 million, or 63 cents per ADS, a year earlier.

Revenue was nearly unchanged at $432.2 million.

Yingli shares were up 8.5 percent at $3.82 on the New York Stock Exchange in heavy trading on Tuesday after touching a two-month high of $3.92.

Shares of other Chinese solar companies Trina Solar Ltd , JA Solar Holdings Co Ltd, ReneSola Ltd were also up about 6 percent. (Reporting By Sneha Banerjee and Kanika Sikka in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Joyjeet Das)

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