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Demand in Europe, India slows as COVID-19 continues to spread

March 25, 2020 PV InfoLink

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Polysilicon

With few deals clinched and most producers filling orders from previous contracts, this week’s polysilicon prices held up at RMB 72–75/kg for mono-Si wafers and RMB 42–45/kg for multi-Si wafers. When it comes to procuring polysilicon, wafer makers are biding their time. Mono-Si wafer makers are making slower progress than expected in bringing new capacities online due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, as the disease is raging abroad, foreign demand is going to decline in Q2. Most wafer makers are therefore expected to reduce their polysilicon stocks and buy considerably less polysilicon. This week also saw a decrease in mono-Si wafer prices for April published by Tier-1 makers. Against this backdrop, polysilicon prices will trend downward for both mono-Si and multi-Si wafers. 

Foreign polysilicon prices remained stable at USD 8.3/kg for mono-Si wafers and USD 6.7/kg for multi-Si wafers as markets were biding their time with very few deals clinched. However, as the RMB-USD exchange rate is depreciating these days, foreign polysilicon prices may decrease along with their Chinese equivalents.

Wafer

As multi-Si manufacturers were returning to their usual utilization rates, driving up multi-Si wafer supply to surplus levels, this week’s multi-Si wafer prices continued to trend downward, coming in at RMB 1.35–1.48/piece. Very few deals were clinched at a market price of RMB 1.5/piece or above. Meanwhile, foreign multi-Si wafer prices stayed at USD 0.195–0.199/piece this week. As manufacturers have started to negotiate orders for April, multi-Si wafer prices will become more certain next week. Yet, under the double whammy of stagnant end-market demand for multi products and the COVID-19 pandemic, multi-Si wafer prices in China and foreign markets are likely to go down for the short term.

List prices for mono-Si wafers have showed no change over the past year, suggesting that end-market demand for mono products remains strong. However, some M2-sized products are undersold due to weak draw-in. Meanwhile, as COVID-19 continues to prevail overseas, anticipated demand in Q2 will not take place any time soon, exacerbating the pessimism about prices in the supply chain, and prompting Tier-1 makers to reduce their pricing by RMB 0.05/piece for all sizes. However, boron- and gallium-doped wafers share the same price, meaning that prices have declined by RMB 0.15/piece for gallium-doped wafers. This week’s M2 and G1 mono-Si wafer prices were, respectively, RMB 2.9–3.03/piece and RMB 3.22–3.3/piece in China. M2 and G1 multi-Si wafer prices for overseas markets were USD 0.376–0.387/piece and USD 0.41–0.418/piece, respectively.

Cell

As the COVID-19 continues to spread, the cell market is teeming with pessimism. As such, mono PERC cell prices started to decline this week, to RMB 0.88–0.89/W for M2-sized cells and RMB 0.92–0.93/W for G1-sized ones. Moreover, mono PERC cell prices have trended downwards at high and low-priced ends. Prices for M2-sized cells declined to a low of RMB 0.83–0.85/W this week because inventory is piling up and weakened demand forced manufacturers to undersell. By contrast, prices for G1-sized cells were relatively stable, with low levels staying at RMB 0.9–0.91/W. To what extent module makers will cut their production volumes affects how mono PERC cell prices will fare in the future. But as mono-Si wafer prices and overseas end-market demand both continue to decline, they are expected to decrease further.

Multi-Si cell prices fell to RMB 2.7–2.75/W this week because the largest market, India, had imposed a nationwide lockdown, prompting domestic demand for the cells to slump. Indian demand will struggle to pick up, so multi-Si cell prices may keep falling in the short run. 

Foreign cell prices have been on the decline due to a depreciated RMB/USD exchange rate and are now subject to change because some producers are negotiating new deals and few deals are clinched. So, this week mono PERC cell prices were USD 0.112–0.116/W for M2-sized cells and USD 0.120–0.122/W for G1-sized cells; multi-Si cell prices were around USD 0.075/W.

Module

As the COVID-19 outbreak worsens overseas, it takes an increasingly heavier toll on the demand side—and none more so than in India, which has recently imposed a nationwide lockdown, and Europe, where the disease is inflicting many. Module orders for both markets have been either postponed for delivery or delivered in smaller sizes.

With limited orders to fill for April and May, module makers have terminated cooperation with outsourcing partners in China and abroad. Some Tier-1 and Tier 2 producers now operate with lower utilization rates and procure less materials, so manufacturers of cells and module bill of materials now see increasing inventories.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic is not going to slow down any time soon, some ongoing PV projects—particularly residential and C&I rooftop ones—will be halted in foreign markets. So, Q2 will see a lull in module demand in overseas markets. Although module prices remain stable most of the time because few new deals have been clinched, they may be on a gradual decline when inventory increases in Q2 and price negotiations for the second half of this year kick off.

 

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