Prices across the supply chain fare poorly over uncertainty on COVID-19 pandemic
March 18, 2020 PV InfoLink
This week’s polysilicon prices for mono-Si and multi-Si wafers remained stable, with most of the deals that were clinched earlier this month being executed and a few being negotiated. Polysilicon prices for mono-Si wafers stayed at RMB 72–75/kg in the market, averaging RMB 73/kg, thanks to stable end-market demand and growing production capacity for mono-Si wafers. Polysilicon prices for multi-Si wafers hovered at RMB 42–45/kg in the market, averaging RMB 43/kg, as multi-Si wafer makers were recovering in the utilization rate and the production volume of polysilicon for multi-Si wafers was declining among operating manufacturers. Foreign polysilicon prices showed little change this week, staying at USD 8.3/kg for mono-Si wafers and USD 6.7/kg for multi-Si wafers.
With the spread of coronavirus being curbed in China, the shortage of silicon powder is easing for the two Tier-1 polysilicon makers that were undersupplied earlier. One of them has returned to full capacity; the other is ramping up to have its normal utilization rate recovered. On the whole, the pandemic did not exert much impact on the production volume of polysilicon in March.
The downward trend in multi-Si wafer prices continued into this week, which now came in at RMB 1.4–1.5/piece, averaging RMB 1.48/piece. This continued slump is due to a small undersupply of multi-Si cells attributed to low utilization rates and an oversupply of multi-Si wafers linked to producers increasingly resuming operation. While India’s installation rush will continue to yield multi-Si demand until the end of this month, multi-Si wafer prices may keep trending downward over the short term. This week’s foreign multi-Si wafer prices remained stable, averaging USD 0.197/piece.
As end-market demand for M2-sized products is declining, most mono product suppliers are shifting to G1. Only a few cell makers still receive orders for M2-sized cells. So, M2-sized mono-Si wafers are likely to be produced for fulfilling individual demand. Next week Longi and Zhonghuan Solar are going to announce their list prices for M2 mono-Si wafers for April, but the prices are likely to drop since polysilicon prices for mono-Si wafers remain stable and downstream demand for M2 products is falling. Meanwhile, G1 mono-Si wafers, which are more popular than M2 ones, may also sustain price decline because their supply is going to pick up, This week, M2 and G1 mono-Si wafers stayed at RMB 2.95–3.08/piece and RMB 3.27–3.35/piece, respectively.
This week’s cell prices showed little change. Tier-1 makers managed to keep prices for M2-sized mono-Si cells staying RMB 0.9–0.91/W and those for G1-sized ones held up at RMB 0.94–0.95/W on the strength of foreign demand. More significant price change occurred at the low-priced end, with M2-sized cells constantly being undersold at RMB 0.88/W and even lower levels. Mono-Si cell prices may begin to decline next week, when a crop of new deals is negotiated. Moreover, as demand for M2-sized products is falling and foreign customers are going to procure less and even none of such products, M2-sized cells will become increasingly less marketable. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to prevail, cell makers are concerned whether module makers will cut their production. Amid this bleak market outlook, prices for G1-sized cells will be declining slowly.
Multi-Si cell prices maintained their previous levels this week, coming in at RMB 2.8–2.85/piece in the market. However, they may decrease next week as India’s installation rush is slowing down with the end of the fiscal year drawing near.
Foreign cell prices declined fractionally this week because of exchange-rate variations—to USD 0.116–0.117/W for M2-sized mono-Si cells, USD 0.122–0.123/W for G1-sized mono-Si cells, and around USD 0.077/W for multi-Si cells.
Since the end of February, module makers have increasingly resumed operation, pushing their overall utilization rate up to over 80%. Module supply is recovering around the world, except in Malaysia, where local businesses have been shut down over the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the impact of the pandemic on module supply remains to be logistic and delivery hiccups, which cause some producers to operate with bulging inventories.
While taking its toll on the global economy, the COVID-19 pandemic worsens in western countries, where modules are high in demand. So far, there is no marked change in the volume of foreign orders placed for modules. However, Europe and other regions where the virus is highly prevalent are expected to see projects being postponed. This will make it even more uncertain how foreign module demand is faring. The pandemic will extend its tentacles from the supply side to the demand side during March–April.
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Downward pressure from downstream segment drove down mono-Si cell and module BOM prices
Overseas market is now clouded by pessimism as the pandemic continues to escalate.
Demand in Europe, India slows as COVID-19 continues to spread
The COVID-19 outbreak worsens overseas and takes an toll on the demand side.
M2 cells fare poorly in price as a result of weaker Chinese demand
Multi-Si cell prices are forecast to remain at the current levels for the short run
Cell prices fluctuate amid low utilization rate in module sector
With growing downward price pressure from the module segment, mono-Si cell prices will trend downward in the upcoming week, when a new round of price negotiations is due to take place.