MEMC Electronic Materials (WFR)

Q2 2010 Earnings Call

July 29, 2010 5:30 pm ET


Timothy Oliver - Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President

Bill Michalek - Director of IR & Corporate Communications

Ahmad Chatila - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director


Jeffrey Bencik - Kaufman Bros.

Stephen Chin - UBS Investment Bank

Sanjay Shrestha - Lazard Capital Markets LLC

Vishal Shah - Barclays Capital

Krish Sankar - BofA Merrill Lynch

Paul Clegg - Jefferies & Company, Inc.

Stephen O'Rourke - Deutsche Bank AG

Paul Leming - Soleil Securities Group, Inc.

Satya Kumar - Crédit Suisse AG

Jesse Pichel - Jefferies & Company, Inc.

Christopher Blansett - JP Morgan Chase & Co

John Hardy - Gleacher & Company, Inc.



Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the MEMC Second Quarter Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn the conference over to host, Director of Corporate Communications for MEMC, Mr. Bill Michalek. Please go ahead, sir.

Bill Michalek

Good afternoon, and thank you for joining MEMC's Second Quarter 2010 Earnings Conference Call. With me today are Ahmad Chatila, President and Chief Executive Officer; Tim Oliver, Chief Financial Officer; and Kurt Burning, Treasurer.

Before we begin, please note that this call will include forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from management's current expectations. These risks are described in the earnings release published today and in our 2009 Form 10-K. As a supplement to this call, we have provided slides on our website to provide more detail regarding the quarter. Please go to the Investors section of I will now turn the call over to Ahmad for his opening remarks, and then Tim will review the financial results and outlook.

Ahmad Chatila

Thanks, Bill. Good afternoon, everyone. I would like to start by framing our performance for the second quarter and then offer an assessment of our progress in achieving what we have said we will do. Our headline for the quarter is straightforward. We are pleased to report continued improvement in our operational performance, strategic position and our financial results. We are capitalizing on stronger market demand, reacting to solar supply chain challenges, improving our cost structure and ramping the SunEdison business.

We are simultaneously making prudent investments in our selling capabilities and capacity expansion in technological differentiation and in acquisitions that are all meant to capitalize future period growth. The markets we serve around the world have continued to recover. You are seeing healthy end market demand. The strategic and operational actions we're taking to strengthen our business are taking hold and position us for improved long-term performance. And we've crossed the midpoint of 2010 and look ahead to the second half of the year. I offer this assessment of our progress.

First, in our Semiconductor Materials segment, I've said that I expected the business to improve its performance and profitability quarter by quarter. We said that the second quarter of 2010 would be better than the first. It was. The segment returned to profitability, benefiting from continued volume growth, higher selling prices and improved productivity. It has positive operating income for the first time since Q3 '08 in spite of 20% lower pricing over that period and that is due to market share gains and productivity improvements. The semiconductor material business will provide evidence of further improvement. We need and expect more from this business. The second half of this year is expected to show continued improvement and be better than the second quarter.

Now let's turn to the Solar Materials segment. In this segment, I said we must take actions to de-risk the business, to better control our destiny and to improve our performance. I also said in February’s Capital Markets Day that margin would drive throughout the year. While I'm unable to meet my commitments on improving margins throughout the year due to our lack of control over our own destiny in solar wafer manufacturing and this was exacerbated to the extreme by the German fee and tariff saga, fortunately we have identified this as a risk in 2009 and communicated our intentions to build our advanced wafering plant in Q3 of 2009.

Strategically, the Solar Materials team made significant progress on positioning and de-risking the business that will show some results in Q3. But we'll have significant impact on this business in early 2011. First, construction at our new wafer plant in Kuching, Malaysia, is proceeding as planned. The plant will significantly de-risk our Solar Materials segment by reducing our sole reliance on external vendors. Second, during the second quarter we launched a joint venture in China and continued to form strategic partnerships with certain wafer suppliers to diversify our supply chain and reduce the variability of our future costs. Third, in the second quarter we acquired Solaicx and with it an advanced continuous monocrystalline process and technology. This process provides lower-cost crystal and results in wafers with enhanced electrical performance, allowing cell manufacturers to create higher-efficiency cells with competitive cost. Fourth, we continue to drive productivity in our polysilicon plant in Pasadena, Texas. During the second quarter, the plant produced record high volume, and while we are pleased with this performance, we have a three-year roadmap to drive further cost and productivity improvement at the plant.

Finally, we continue to expand capacity for our high-quality polysilicon and have made significant progress at our Merano, Italy plant. We have produced our first silicon from the expansion, and we will ramp this additional 2,000-ton of annualized capacity over the remainder of the year. This ramp helps to ensure that we have poly to meet our internal needs and that our customers receive products made from some of the best polysilicon available.

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