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Downward-trending multi-Si cell prices have reached break-even point

Poly Price

Low polysilicon supply persisted into this week, with the polysilicon price hovering at RMB 74/kg for mono-Si wafers and having climbed to RMB 61/kg for multi-Si wafers. The average polysilicon price has risen slightly, and the price gap between polysilicon for mono-Si wafers and that for multi-Si wafers has narrowed to RMB 13/kg. Polysilicon for multi-Si wafers was much in demand on the end market before the National Day, but after the holiday, the double whammy of collapsed multi-Si cell prices and polysilicon makers having produced less polysilicon for multi-Si wafers resulted in low inventories of polysilicon for multi-Si wafers. All signs indicate that if Tier-1 cast-mono makers cease production, polysilicon makers will find themselves at a disadvantage, losing overseas customers. So, the overall polysilicon price for multi-Si wafers is predicted to trend downward in November.

Some small cast-mono producers are under intense pressure from the wave of price decline hitting wafers and high-priced polysilicon, having either stopped production lines or lowered their utilization rates. The polysilicon price for multi-Si wafers now depends on the inventory of this polysilicon product, buyer willingness, and market conditions. The supply of polysilicon for mono-Si wafers would be slightly low in November, largely due to the ever-expanding production capacity of mono-Si wafers. The polysilicon price for mono-Si wafers stabilized this week for overseas markets thanks to frequent transactions.

Wafer Price

The decline in multi-Si wafer prices continued into this week, having arrived at RMB 1.8–1.84/piece due to the double whammy of weakened pull-in by cell producers and slackened demand from the downstream sector of the supply chain. Multi-Si wafers now sell products at reduced prices, but cell makers do not necessarily buy them mainly because of bulging inventories. However, the pull-in of multi-Si wafers is still going on, multi-Si suppliers whose customers are vertically integrated companies face smaller pressure because these companies are more likely to procure such wafers. For overseas markets, multi-Si wafers could undergo some price change next week, given their price decline in the Chinese market and their market price indicating a downward trend.

Mono-Si wafer prices would remain generally stable in November, allowing multi-Si wafer prices to catch up. The price gap between M2 and larger wafers is shrinking as prices for larger wafers are approaching those for M2 wafers; this indicates that Tier-1 makers leverage the high price-performance of larger wafers to potentially create a bandwagon in favor of such wafers. Low demand for mono-Si wafers in Taiwan has caused local cell makers to reduce their utilization rates. Moreover, one mono-Si wafer product after another has been hit by price decline due to exchange-rate variations.

Cell Price

A fresh round of cell-price negotiations took place this week; the most prominent price change occurred in conventional multi-Si cells, which saw stagnant demand and have recently arrived at a price of under RMB 3.3 in per-piece terms or below RMB 0.72 in per-watt terms. This price reached the break-even point for the majority of multi-Si cell production lines because they had been running for a long time. In addition, with demand for multi-Si cells struggling to pick up, multi-Si cell production lines have increasingly been reverted to produce mono-Si cells or shut down. In this case, some cell makers keep scaling down their inventories at bargain prices, prompting cell prices to be going down.

Demand for M2 cells was slightly higher than for larger cells because solar projects that had begun in China called for M2 cells only. So, while mono PERC cells would see generally higher demand in November than in October, excess production capacity makes it difficult for the market price for PERC cells to go beyond its current level of RMB 0.93/W even some cell makers have raised quotes for the product.

Module Price

From Q1 to Q3, 15.99 GW of solar PV capacity was installed in China, according to the National Energy Administration. Of the newly installed PV capacity, 7.73 GW was added by solar power stations and 8.26 GW by distributed generation systems. Considering the unexpectedly low PV demand in Q4, the Chinese demand will be lower  than 30 GW by the end of this year, and solar producers have been lowering their expectations for domestic demand.

It appears that module demand could decline further between Q1 and Q2 in 2020. To secure more orders next year, producers will fight fierce price wars in China and overseas markets. The low module price of RMB 1.74–1.82/W is penetrating into overseas markets; consequently, next year’s mainstream price quote for modules has fallen from USD 0.25–0.26/W to USD 0.23–0.245/W. As Q4 would see yet another episode the market faring worse than predicted, foreign price quotes for modules could keep declining in the first half of 2020. 

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