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Sumco Expects Sales of Wafers for Solar Cells to Rise 11-Fold

By Mikako Nakajima and Pavel Alpeyev, Tokyo, April 8, 2008
Source: Bloomberg -Japan

Sumco Corp., the world’s second- largest maker of silicon wafers, expects sales of the material used to make solar power cells to gain 11-fold in the next seven years as customers including Sharp Corp. boost production. Sales of solar-cell wafers will rise to 200 billion yen ($1.9 billion) in the 12 months ending Jan. 31, 2015, from 17.8 billion yen last fiscal year, President Kenjiro Shigematsu said in an interview with Bloomberg Television broadcast today. The company’s annual output of the wafers will rise to 1,010 megawatts in the period, from 105 megawatts at present, he said.

Sharp and companies including Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and Sanyo Electric Co. need more wafers to boost production of cells to meet solar power demand. Annual worldwide output of solar cells will probably quadruple to 10,000 megawatts by as early as 2010, according to estimates by the U.S. photovoltaic industry newsletter PV News last month.

“This is a business chance, and we have the technology and confidence” needed to take advantage of it, Shigematsu said in the interview in Tokyo. The company may speed up production should growth in demand accelerate, he said.

Sales will probably rise 5.3 percent to 500 billion yen in the year ending Jan. 31, 2009, Tokyo-based Sumco, which trails Shin-Etsu Chemical Co. in silicon-wafer production, said on March 6. Net income will probably drop 23 percent to 58 billion yen because of lower prices, a stronger yen and depreciation costs, Sumco said.

Sharp said on March 27 it will invest 72 billion yen to build a new plant that will help increase its output capacity for thin-film solar cells to 1 gigawatt by 2010. Mitsubishi Electric said last month it aims to more than double production of solar power to 500 megawatts by 2012.