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Utilization rates going down across the polysilicon supply chain to reduce inventories ahead of Chinese New Year

Poly Price

This week, the average polysilicon prices hovered at RMB 73/kg for mono-Si wafer and RMB 53/kg for multi-Si wafer, with high-and low-priced segments hit by a small decrease of RMB 1/kg. Over 90% of operating multi-Si wafer producers have begun to purchase polysilicon mixed with lower-grade ones, in order to reduce their polysilicon procurement expenses to under RMB 45/kg, thus aligning the cost of multi-Si wafer production with the market price. As producers of mono-Si and multi-Si wafers have signed polysilicon deals for January, polysilicon prices for mono-Si and multi-Si wafers would hold up until after the Chinese New Year holiday.

Regarding the polysilicon supply, there were thirteen Chinese producers operating in December last year, and one producer dedicated to churning out polysilicon for multi-Si wafers is going to maintain equipment early this month. Regarding the overall supply/demand equilibrium for polysilicon in Q1, polysilicon for mono-Si wafers would essentially remain stable in supply. The price for the mainstream polysilicon for multi-Si wafers is likely to decline, due to the double whammy of weak demand in Q1 and most multi-Si wafer makers prioritizing mid-efficiency products and showing low willingness to purchase only mainstream polysilicon for multi-Si wafers. 

This week’s overseas polysilicon prices were consistent with their previous levels, thanks to stable exchange rates—averaging USD 8.4/kg for mono-Si wafers and USD 6.7/kg for multi-Si wafers.

Wafer Price

Multi-Si wafer prices in China showed no marked change this week as Tier-1 makers were filling old orders. However, low-priced multi-Si wafers, most of which were traded at the market price for Tier-2 makers, sustained more noticeable price drops—to RMB 1.49–1.58/piece. Meanwhile, with top-tier makers of multi-Si wafers in the midst of signing deals for January, multi-Si wafer prices would become relatively certain next week. Overseas multi-Si wafer prices, hit by low end-market multi demand in China, sustained decreases on the whole; the market price for such wafers was down to USD 0.205–21/piece. While the polysilicon price for multi-Si wafer seems likely to stabilize before the Chinese New Year holiday, its price decline continues to haunt the wafer segment. 

As the list prices for mono-Si wafers announced by Tier-1 makers for January are identical to those for the previous month and the supply of mono-Si wafers is running low in the spot market, some Tier-2 mono-Si wafer makers began to raise their list prices this week. So, mono-Si wafers in the low-priced segment have come in at RMB 2.98/piece and those with a spot price of under RMB 3/piece are getting low in numbers; both trends point to the consistently high demand for mono-Si wafers during Q4 2019. As mono-Si wafer prices continue to hold up, prices for cast mono wafers remain unchanged, staying at a market price of RMB 2.65–2.7/piece in China and USD 0.35–0.355 overseas. Cast mono wafers are supplied by only one producer, as usual.

Cell Price

Prices for mono PERC cells made of M2 wafers were stable this week; they stood at RMB 0.95/W. Price quotes for mono PERC cells made of G1 wafers have begun to fluctuate, because they are growing in supply following a shift in production lines from those made of M2 wafers. Consequently, Tier-1 makers mostly stick with RMB 0.97–0.98, whereas Tier-2 makers offer slightly lower quotes at RMB 0.95–0.96/W. 

Multi-Si cells, hit by persistently low demand at the end of 2019, were sold at a hodgepodge of bargain prices. Although the cells kept a market price of RMB 2.7–2.75/W, those supplied by producers with bulged inventories were sold at deficit prices.

Just as module makers lowered their utilization rates a bit to reduce inventories and labor use in response to a production lull during the Chinese New Year holiday, so cell makers take similar actions. Multi-Si cell makers seem likely to stay closed for a much longer time to prevent their stocks from growing. Supply of larger mono-Si cells slightly exceeds demand; some producers are going to suspend operation for a while during the holiday.

Module Price

An installation rush in China before the end of 2019 led to a widespread market expectation that over 8 GW of projects would be commissioned in December 2019. Demand for modules remains strong early in January; however, module makers have started to offer low-priced, high-efficiency products since the beginning of this year. PV InfoLink’s customs data show that although only a small number of modules with half-cut + MBB cell design were shipped in early 2019, by the year’s end over 500 MW of such modules and around 1.5 GW of modules assembled with half-cut cells were exported every month. As demand for higher module power output continues to grow, the production volume of modules with half-cut and MBB cell design could increase on a quarterly basis this year.

Bid prices for Chinese modules to be delivered during the first half of 2020 are trending downward—as manufacturers are offering lower quotes on multi-Si modules due to price slumps in up-and downstream sectors—and have gone down to RMB 1.5/W or even lower levels. The multi supply chain may not regain its bearings until the Indian market rebound. 

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