Suntech Power Holdings' CEO Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. ( STP)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

March 8, 2012 8:00 AM ET


Rory MacPherson – Director, IR

Zhengrong Shi – Chairman and CEO

Andrew Beebe – Chief Commercial Officer

David King – CFO


Jesse Pichel – Jefferies

Vishal Shah – Deutsche Bank

Lu Yeung – UBS

Satya Kumar – Credit Suisse

James Medvedeff – Cowen & Company

Christine – Daiwa Capital

Ahmar Zaman – Piper Jaffray

Aaron Chew – Maxim Group

Hari Chandra – Auriga

Brian Gamble – Simmons & Co

David Epstein – CRT Capital

Gloria Ho – HSBC

Michael Dimler – UBS

Monica Shrivastava – HSBC

Sanjay Shrestha – Lazard Capital Markets



Thank you for standing by and welcome to the Suntech Power Holdings Fourth Quarter full year 2011 earnings conference call. At this time, all participants are in listen-only mode. There will be a presentation followed by a question-and-answer session during which if you wish to ask a question, (operator’s instructions). Please limit yourself to one question at a time with the follow-up. Please stand by since this conference is being recorded today March 08, 2012.

I would now like to hand the conference over to your speaker for today Mr. Rory MacPherson, Director of Investor Relations. Thank you. Please go ahead.

Rory MacPherson

Hello, everyone, and welcome to Suntech’s Fourth Quarter and full year 2011 Earnings Conference Call. My name is Rory MacPherson, Suntech’s Director of Investor Relations. On the call today, Dr. Zhengrong Shi, Suntech’s Chairman and CEO, will give an overview of our performance and operational initiatives. Andrew Beebe, our Chief Commercial Officer, will discuss sales and markets. And David King, our Chief Financial Officer, will discuss our financial performance.

During the call, we will make certain forward-looking statements in an effort to assist you in understanding the company and its results. The forward-looking statements will be made under the Safe Harbor provisions of the US Private Securities Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements involve inherent risks and uncertainties. As such, Suntech’s future results may be materially different from the views expressed today.

A number of potential risks and uncertainties are outlined in our earnings release issued today and our SEC filings. Suntech does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statements, except as required under applicable law. To enhance our presentation of information and data during this conference call, we have provided a set of PowerPoint slides for your reference. This presentation is posted on the main page of the Investor Relations section of our website.

We have allocated one hour for the conference call and will endeavor to field as many questions as possible within that timeframe. Please limit questions to one question per person and one follow-up. This conference call is being recorded and the webcast replay will also be available on the Investor relations section of Suntech’s website. Please make note that all figures mentioned during the call are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. I will now turn the call over to Suntech’s Chairman and CEO, Dr. Zhengrong Shi.

Zhengrong Shi

Hello and I thank you for joining us. Today I will discuss some of the highlights of the quarter and outline our plans to improve our competitiveness and market share in 2012. Please turn to page 4. In the fourth quarter, our customers continued to demonstrate their preference to work with global supplies that are dedicated to delivering higher performance and a superior-quality solar panel. With strong demand across multiple regions, we feed it our shipment guidance and make our gross profit target. We also made a significant progress on a number of key initiatives to optimize our operations.

Fourth quarter shipments declined by approximately 10% from the third quarter of 2011. This result is significantly better than our guidance for 20% decline, and primarily due to strong demand ahead of feed-in tariff changes in Europe and the expiration of the cash grant policy in the US

For the full-year 2011, we shipped 2.1GW, which is 33% higher than our 2010 shipments. According to IMS Research, we increased our market share and retained our position as the world’s largest supplier of solar module for the second year running.

Operationally, we succeeded in implementing a number of the initiatives that we discussed on our last quarterly call. We proactively managed utilization in the fourth quarter to reduce excess inventory on hand and prepared for seasonally lower shipment volume in the first quarter of 2012.

We also managed customer relationships to reduce our outstanding accounts receivables. The result of this disciplined working capital management was a $419 million reduction of accounts receivable and inventory. This lead to an improvement in our cash and a restricted cash position to $709 million and a reduction of net debt by $207 million. In this challenging market environment, we believe that financial and operational discipline is vital to a sustainable business.

Please turn to Page 5. As planned, we maintain our capacity at 2.4GW for sale and module production and 1.6GW for wafer production. We intend to hold our manufacturing capacity until we see the amount of sustainability exceed 600MW per quarter.

During the fourth quarter, we continued to move down the cost curve as we saved 7% from total production cost. Driving down production cost is our top priority in 2012 and we are continuing to implement a range of initiatives to achieve this. These include narrowing our product offerings, reviewing materials and the components used in production, optimizing supply and relationships to favor lowest cost, best quality supplies and our retooling production lines to improve converging efficiency.

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