|Yingli Green EnergyHolding Co Ltd is eyeing emerging markets to offset its dependency on the European market. [Photo / Provided to China Daily]|
Emerging markets may soon pip Europe in attracting Chinese solar panel companies because a saturated market, shrinking margins and punitive actions are clouding investment prospects on the continent, experts say.
Yingli Green Energy Holding Co Ltd, the world's largest solar manufacturing company, says that although the European Union has decided not to impose punitive duties on Chinese solar panels, it is better for Chinese solar companies to focus on other emerging markets.
Miao Liansheng, founder and chief executive officer, says Yingli will focus on emerging markets such as Malaysia and South Africa and on providing downstream services, rather than expand further in Europe. "This will ensure steady and long-term growth and also reduce risks," he says
Last month, the EU said it had reached a settlement in its long-standing dispute with Chinese solar producers. It said Chinese companies would sell domestically produced solar panels at minimum or near spot market prices. The agreement came after six weeks of intense negotiations that began after the EU decided to impose provisional anti-dumping duties of 47.6 percent on imports of Chinese solar panels, cells and wafers.
Yingli, based in Baoding, Hebei province, was set up a decade ago by Miao as part of his endeavor to diversify into the energy business. Miao says that while the solar business was relatively unknown in China in the early days, it was a flourishing and thriving business in Europe. "To some extent, that was also why several Chinese solar companies expanded into Europe."
Yingli decided to focus on overseas markets, particularly Europe, after its solar panel output reached 50 megawatts. "In 2004 we entered the European market by selling our products in Germany," he said.
The European strategy proved successful for Yingli and it was able to raise more than $220 million through a series of private investments and ultimately get listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2007.
The company has also grown from a small local company to one that has more than 12,000 employees and more than 26 million solar panel deployments in 40 countries, including Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. More than 60 percent of its revenue until last year came from Europe.
The EU directive earlier this year forced the company to pare its sales targets in Europe and instead focus on the domestic market and other regions such as South Africa and Japan.
While the problems in Europe did have a bearing on Yingli's ultimate decision to branch out into other markets. It was also necessitated by its higher output. Yingli's output of photovoltaic products is expected to reach 3.2 to 3.3 gigawatts this year, an increase of 39.4 percent from the previous year, necessitating the need for newer markets for its products.
"We have shifted our focus from the EU and US to the emerging markets during the past two years to reduce risks from punitive duties and maintain stable growth," Miao says.
A report released by research firm NPD Solarbuzz says global solar photovoltaic demand is forecast to reach 20 gW in the second half of the year, 22 percent higher than in the corresponding period of last year. "This increase will be driven largely by the aggressive PV developments in China and Japan and will also drive full-year 2013 PV demand to a record high of 35.1 gW," says the latest NPD Solarbuzz quarterly report.
"The solar PV industry continues a transition from a European-dominated environment to a global market, with a wide range of countries contributing to growth in the overall PV market," says Michael Barker, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. "The PV industry remains highly dependent on a small group of countries currently at the multi-gigawatt level."