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(Reuters) - Canadian Solar said on Tuesday it shipped more solar panels in the fourth quarter than it previously expected, while its rival Yingli Green Energy warned its sales fell short of its forecast.
A steep 50 percent drop in prices of solar panels during 2011 left many manufacturers scrambling to sell a glut of supplies at the end of the year, and prompted many companies to run factories at reduced levels.
Canadian Solar said its shipments during the quarter would top its November forecast by more than 20 percent, sending its shares higher, while Yingli forecast its shipments would drop about 30 percent from the third quarter, worse than the mid-20s percent drop it had anticipated.
Yingli also said it would take charges of $404 million related to a write-down of its polysilicon production business and for goodwill related to acquisitions completed between 2006-2008, as well as a $135 million charge related to polysilicon inventory purchases.
Last week, Suntech Power Holdings said its fourth-quarter shipment were stronger than originally forecast.
All three of those companies have major manufacturing operations in China, and could see sales to the fast-growing U.S. market curtailed if Washington backs a trade complaint and imposes a tariff on solar imports from that country next month.
A recent jump in demand for the renewable energy equipment, largely due to a record level of solar installations in Germany in December, has surprised most solar industry players.
That has helped many solar stocks move higher in the first several weeks of the year after a bashing that cut share prices across the sector by more than 60 percent last year.
That demand helped soak up a glut of panels that were on the international market and stabilize prices for the renewable energy systems.
Still, most solar analysts are calling for continued pressure on solar panel prices, keeping profit margins in the industry under pressure.
The weak market conditions in the solar market have already pushed some small companies into bankruptcy, including U.S.-based Solyndra, which had received more than $500 million in U.S. government support.
Canadian Solar said its gross margins would remain in line with the company's earlier forecast between 5-8 percent based on shipments of 430 to 440 megawatts (MW) of panels, while Yingli said it expected gross margins would be near 3 percent, including charges.
Despite the lower shipment figure, Yingli said it still expected to reach its full-year 2011 forecast of 1,580 MW to 1,630 MW.
Canadian Solar will provide its fourth quarter results on March 7, and Yingli will issue its results on February 29.
Shares in Yingli slipped 3 percent in post-market trading to $4.45 per share, while Canadian Solar shares jumped nearly 11 percent to $4.63.
Additional reporting by Swetha Gopinath in Bangalore; Editing by Tim DobbynEditing by Tim Dobbyn