The ISOVOLTAIC Executive Board members, Thomas E. Rossegger (CEO) and Manfred Schlögl (CTO), were interviewed on the challenges currently faced by technology suppliers to the photovoltaic sector, and their view of how the global market and technology leader ISOVOLTAIC will develop.
Lebring, am 30 May 2012
ISOVOLTAIC can now look back on its first full year as an independent company. How would you judge the 2011 financial year in the light of the developments in the photovoltaic sector?
Rossegger: After an outstanding year in 2010, in the 2nd quarter of 2011 the photovoltaic market experienced an unexpected and radical structural change, which turned it from a sellers’ market into a buyers’ market. In 2010 and 2011 production capacity for the entire photovoltaic supply chain increased to such an extent that it led to a pronounced mismatch between installation and production capacities. This led to enormous pressure on prices, which extended to the technology suppliers such as ISOVOLTAIC as well. We had set ourselves very ambitious targets for 2011, which we could not fulfill as a result of these market developments. But we can talk of a successful year for the company, nevertheless. We maintained our market leadership in the backsheet market with a market share of 32% and in so doing even extended our lead over our nearest competitor. At the same time we have established ourselves as an independent, high-performing company with a very sound financial base.
What effect has the collapse in prices in the photovoltaic sector had on ISOVOLTAIC AG?
Schlögl: ISOVOLTAIC felt the effects of this trend as well. However, as the technology leaders in this area, we were able to use our position at the cutting edge to counter the collapse in prices with our new polyamide-based product, which helped to stabilise quantities. This new ICOSOLAR® backsheet meets current market requirements precisely, as a result of which we were able almost to match the sale volumes achieved in 2010, despite the difficult environment; and to keep margins at a relatively high level, despite actual revenues declining in 2011.
In the first quarter of 2011 ISOVOLTAIC made the head-lines for its planned IPO, which was abandoned at the last minute. What were the consequences of this?
Rossegger: Firstly we want to say that we are very proud of the fact that we demonstrated our fitness to approach the capital markets in our very first year as an independent company – i.e. that we met all the requirements of the Financial Market Authority for being admitted to the stock exchange. It showed us that we are working with a very high-calibre team, which has been able to lead the company to an advanced level of development within a very short space of time.
Schlögl: The failed IPO did not affect our strategy, as we can finance our targets and projects from our own cash flow. Our extensive investments in increasing production capacity, in environmentally-compatible energy generation and in research and development, as well as in training and developing our highly-skilled employees, are impressive proof of this.
ISOVOLTAIC is the market and technological leader in its area. What strategy is ISOVOLTAIC pursuing to en-sure it maintains this market position?
Rossegger: The focus will continue to fall on the price for modular components such as backsheets in the future too – for this reason it will only be possible to differentiate our-selves from the competition through technological innovation and strong customer orientation.
“Customer enthusiasm” is not just a slogan for ISOVOLTAIC, but an integral part of our strategic positioning. We are assuming that there will be an even greater concentration of our customers – the module manufacturers – in Asia. We successfully set up our operation in China – CICM – in 2011. In addition to enabling us to have direct customer contact in situ, a finishing line for ICOSOLAR® backsheets has been set up, which will allow us to react swiftly and flexibly to customer requirements. The development of CICM into a larger production facility is an important element in our strategy for China and will be systematically pursued.
Schlögl: ISOVOLTAIC is well-equipped for the challenges ahead thanks to a full innovation pipeline. We have already laid a solid foundation with our existing ICOSOLAR® back-sheets, which have excellent market acceptance. We will continue to develop our passive backsheet products so as to support our customers in the price war with more cost-effective production yet unchanged quality. We are also developing films that will be used in new photovoltaic technologies. In addition, we are working hard on innovative film laminates with additional functions (active backsheets) which will enable us to generate additional added value and maintain our technological leadership.
How do you see the photovoltaic sector developing in the future?
Rossegger: For the time being no growth in installations in 2012 is expected. The assumption is that there will be a greater volume of new photovoltaic installations outside Europe in the years to come. The North American and Asian markets will assume greater importance as a result. In China, in particular, where the majority of module manufacturers are based – but also in India – increased funding for new installations is planned.
Further prospects for the photovoltaic market are certainly seen as positive. The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), for example, in its market report assumes average annual growth in the global market for solar modules of approximately 24% up until 2015.
We are convinced that photovoltaic technology will further establish itself as the competitive option in energy generation; and that we will continue to play our part both with the proven ICOSOLAR® backsheets and with other pioneering film technologies.
from left to right: Thomas E. Rossegger (CEO), Manfred Schlögl (CTO)
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