German solar bellwether SolarWorld on Monday kept its 2009 sales outlook, helping European solar stocks gain, as it said cost savings had helped it offset most effects of the sector's ongoing price slump.
SolarWorld, Germany's third-biggest solar company by revenue, unexpectedly released second-quarter key figures and said it was still sticking to its sales forecast of 1 billion euros ($1.42 billion) for 2009.
SolarWorld AG thus succeeded in largely counteracting the price decline in the international solar market by way of cost savings and a substantial increase in group-wide sales volumes because of its rising brand awareness, the company said, adding that sales volume rose 26 percent year-on-year to 239 megawatts in the first half of 2009.
The outlook is what everyone is looking at, and this also helps SolarWorld's peers, a local trader said.
Shares in SolarWorld were 7.1 percent higher at 0859 GMT, having been up as much as 11 percent, and outperformed the FTSE clean tech index, which was up 0.5 percent.
Peers such as Norway's Renewable Energy Corp (REC) as well as Germany's Q-Cells and Solon were all up between 2.1 and 4.8 percent.
However, SolarWorld Chief Executive Frank Asbeck told Reuters that he could not forecast the profit development in 2009 due to uncertainties about industry prices.
The solar sector -- once spoiling investors with stellar growth rates -- has fallen victim to a crisis of tight credits and oversupply, but solar subsidy programs recently introduced in the United States and China could help an industry revival.
NO NEGATIVE SURPRISES
SolarWorld's earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) for the second quarter came in at 44.1 million euros, down from 75.7 million last year, while sales reached 225 million, down from 259.6 million.
This is in line with CEO Asbeck's recent comment that the (second-quarter) figures contain no negative surprises. The worst seems to be over, and we think that Solarworld managed it well, Merck & Finck analyst Theo Kitz wrote in a note.
Asbeck told Reuters earlier in July that sales in the first half of 2009 held steady compared with the same period last year, when the company generated 427.1 million euros of revenue.
SolarWorld has so far been relatively unscathed by the sector crisis as the company -- in comparison with pure producers of cells and modules such as Q-Cells and Solon -- is active in several parts of the solar value chain.
The company's results came after U.S. peers SunPower Corp and MEMC Electronic Materials Inc last week offered hope for the crisis-ridden industry, each posting quarterly earnings that topped Wall Street estimates.
Earlier this month, German peer Q-Cells, the world's largest maker of solar cells, shocked markets by withdrawing its 2009 sales outlook, which it had already cut three times, as falling prices and ongoing weak demand for its products persisted.