PVinsights: Japanese and European buyers still paid the extra money for Mono PERC cells amid information inefficiency
Polysilicon prices in China rose slightly this week, but prices remained under pressure on signs of slower downstream demand in China. Chinese polysilicon suppliers continued to raise price quotes given supply tightness, but actual settling prices only increased limitedly from previous level as suppliers took waning downstream prices into consideration. In addition, the current demand strength of polysilicon in China were mostly supported by the major mono-crystalline wafer makers in the stage of aggressive capacity expansion and ingot inventory building for the potential demand recovery to mono-crystalline products while the current high polysilicon prices also limit the multi-crystalline wafer rivals' ability from lowering prices at larger scope. Nevertheless, for majority of the wafer buyers, polysilicon prices are now above the market's affordability and more Chinese buyers may struggle to continue their pace of procurement growth. In overseas, polysilicon prices remained steady, without any meaningful transaction. Although Wacker has yet to recover its production after the explosion accident, the supply in overseas market did not witness any signs of shortage.
Mono-crystalline wafer prices plunged as China's demand crackdown on top mono-crystalline wafer suppliers' capacity expansion runs up inventories, pushing down suppliers' profitability as major players discount signs of ample supply. Although one of the top mono-crystalline wafer makers intended to hold the price stable in December and provide higher-grade products to support the price, overall prices in the market still decreased notably as 2nd and 3rd tiers selloff stockpiles amid weak demand. Yet, the sharp price correction failed to witness any signs of demand recovery, top tier players have also build ingot inventories that approximately equates to the usage for 1-2 months. Nonetheless, it does not seem to dampen their interests of building ingot inventories, as major mono-crystalline wafer makers plan on increasing the level to 2-3 months, since major mono-crystalline suppliers had made the big profits from their 2-3 month inventory building in 1Q16. Meanwhile, the increasing stake in diamond-wired multi-crystalline wafer production has continue to drive blended multi-crystalline wafer prices lower this week, but the solid demand has prevented the prices from sharply falling.
Multi-crystalline cell prices stayed immobile this week amid steady demand in the first half of December. However, the price drops of mono-crystalline and mono PERC cells continued to extend over the week. The aggressive mono PERC cell capacity expansion reinforced the buyers¡¦ assessment on Wednesday that oversupply has continued to strengthen and the serious price correction did little to change the expectations the Mono PERC demand will continue to lose momentum in December. Except that some of the EU or Japan buyers, who suffer from information inefficiency, still paying high price for mono PERC cells to Taiwanese cell makers, major solar cell suppliers found the demand for mono-crystalline products remained extremely languished and the price correction kept severely.
Weekly global multi-crystalline module prices held immobile, while mono-crystalline ones remained under pressured. Since Chinese module makers had started to trim their OEM module productions beforehand, their inventory levels were maintained at healthier level that helped to prevent irrational price competition. Moreover, 2nd and 3rd tier Chinese module makers also benefited from booming distributed-generation projects in China, supporting multi-crystalline module prices to stand still. In the rest of the major solar market, multi-crystalline module prices barely changed amid high material cost. However, the drop of mono-crystalline module continued to widen over the week as the demand in EU, US and Japan drops and the costs of mono PERC cell products continue to fall sharply. Besides the upstream mono PERC cell price correction provided more flexibilities for module makers to lower the prices in the face of intensifying competition.