FRANKFURT (Reuters) - SolarWorld, Germany's third-largest solar company by revenue, confirmed its 2009 sales outlook after first-quarter net profit rose more than a quarter as the company offset falling module prices by cutting costs. Chief Executive Frank Asbeck told Reuters on Monday that the company still expects to post 2009 sales of more than 1 billion euros ($1.33 billion), while full-year profit would depend on how prices develop in the battered industry.
SolarWorld in March held off giving a 2009 profit outlook, providing guidance only for sales as falling prices for cell modules and wafers has weighed on margins in the industry.
Net profit for the first three months came in at 24 million euros, up 26 percent from last year's 19 million, while sales rose 5 percent to 176 million euros.
Its shares were indicated 1.1 percent higher in pre-market trade, while Frankfurt's technology index was seen 0.2 percent lower.
Cost-cutting measures also helped peer First Solar last week, whose shares rocketed after its results beat analyst expectations despite strong price declines.
Like peers, SolarWorld is looking to expand beyond established and saturated European markets. It has said it aims to double sales in the United States this year, boosted by investments earmarked by the Obama administration.
SolarWorld -- which makes solar panels, cells and silicon -- is among few companies in the sector that have not been hit by the economic crisis so far. Analysts cite its activities in several parts of the solar value chain.
More specialized peers such as Q-Cells and Norway's Renewable Energy Corp (REC) are struggling to maintain the high growth rates that have been a hallmark of the industry.
According to StarMine, which weights analysts' forecasts according to their track records, SolarWorld trades at 14.3 times estimated 12-month forward earnings, a premium to Q-Cells's 10.6 and REC's 11.7 times.
(Reporting by Christoph Steitz and Anneli Palmen)
Mon May 4, 2009 2:29am EDT