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SMA Solar Slashes Dividend As Annual Profit Plunges - Update

Germany's SMA Solar Technology AG (SMTGF.PK) on Thursday halved its annual dividend as the company's full-year 2011 profit plunged nearly 55 percent, reflecting slowing demand for photovoltaics. The solar energy equipment supplier also confirmed its cautious outlook for 2012 amid uncertainty surrounding proposed subsidy cuts.

Subsidy issues and weakening demand are impacting solar cell makers and related equipment makers alike in most parts of the world. Many solar companies of late have reported losses or sharp profit declines.

Earlier this month, the German government said it would cut subsidies for solar panels, as rapid growth in demand is making it difficult to provide support any longer.

The announcement has triggered some short-term demand hike for the company's systems. SMA said today it is seeing strong demand for photovoltaic rooftop systems in response to the uncertainty caused by the proposed subsidy cuts in Germany.

However, its project business in Germany has seen a sharp drop in demand as 10 megawatt or higher photovoltaic plants will not receive subsidies and the planning phase for such plants is significantly longer.

CEO Pierre-Pascal Urbon said, "Given the current level of uncertainty in the German market and massive changes in other European markets, estimating how demand will develop over the rest of the year is almost impossible. However, our forecast for the whole year remains."

The company expects only moderate growth in the global photovoltaic market in 2012, with the possibility of a slight decline. The firm continues to expect sales of 1.2 billion to 1.5 billion euros in fiscal 2012 and an EBIT margin of between 5 and 10 percent.

In 2011, consolidated net profit attributable to shareholders plunged to 166.05 million euros or 4.79 euros per share from 365.04 million euros or 10.52 euros per share in the previous year.

Sales dropped to 1.67 billion euros from 1.92 billion euros in 2010, as strong international growth and project business was offset by stable demand in Germany. The foreign share of total sales increased to 53.6 percent in 2011 from 44.9 percent in 2010.

Globally, the company sold inverters with a total combined capacity of 7.6 gigawatts in 2011, compared to 7.8 gigawatts in 2010, representing a market share of around 33 percent.

The company's proposed dividend of 1.30 euros per share is much lower than last year's 3 euros per share.

The stock fell 0.57 percent on the Xetra in Frankfurt on Wednesday to close at 37.43 euros on 75,260 shares.

by RTT Staff Writer

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