March 14, 2013 / 2:43 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-ReneSola expects revenue above estimates as prices stabilize

* Expects first-quarter revenue of $260-$270 mln vs est $204.2 mln

* Forecasts positive margins for the first quarter

* Full-year shipments to rise to 2.7-2.9 GW

* Fourth-quarter revenue rise 63 pct to $306.5 mln

* Shares rise 9 pct (Adds details, share movement)

March 13 (Reuters) - ReneSola Ltd, a Chinese solar wafer and panel maker, forecast bigger-than-expected revenue for the current quarter as selling prices begin to stabilize after a sharp fall over the past two years, sending its shares up 9 percent.

Solar companies have been hit by an excess supply and a fall in demand in Europe, the biggest market for solar products, that sent prices for solar panels plunging nearly 30 percent in 2012 on top of a more than 30 percent slump in 2011.

ReneSola said weak prices offset the gains from a doubling of shipments to 713.2 megawatts (MW) in the fourth quarter, pushing the company to its sixth straight quarterly loss.

Unlike many China-based solar companies, ReneSola sources cells from outside the country. This has helped it escape steep U.S. import duties on solar products using China-made cells.

The company has signed tolling contracts to process more than 400 MW of products overseas to circumvent likely similar duties by the European Union.

Under tolling deals, companies provide products to overseas companies, which then process them to be packaged at assembling plants elsewhere.

ReneSola said it might expand its tolling contracts after the EU comes up with its final ruling.

The European Commission ordered customs officials last week to begin registering imports of Chinese solar panels, a move that suggests duties could be imposed retroactively. The commission has until June 6 to make a ruling.

SUNNY FORECAST

ReneSola said first-quarter revenue is expected to be in the range of $260 million to $270 million. Analysts were expecting $204.2 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Margins will be positive in the quarter as the company cuts solar panel production costs by about 3 percent to 55 cents per watt.

Solar panel selling costs fell about 8 percent to 60 cents per watt in the fourth quarter, resulting in a gross margin of 3.3 percent. Third-quarter gross margin was negative 18 percent.

The company expects total shipments in the first quarter to fall to a range of 660 MW to 680 MW, below 713.2 MW in the fourth quarter.

The first quarter tends to be the slowest for solar companies as difficult weather in Europe and North America hampers installations.

Full-year shipments, however, are expected to rise to a range of 2.7 gigawatts (GW) to 2.9 GW, from 2.2 GW last year.

Rivals Canadian Solar Inc, Yingli Green Energy Holding Co and Trina Solar Ltd have all forecast a rise in demand for their products, mainly on expectations that China’s new green energy goals will drive consumption.

ReneSola’s fourth-quarter net loss widened to $49.8 million, or 58 cents per American Depositary Share (ADS), from $36.7 million, or 43 cents per ADS, a year earlier.

Analysts had expected a loss of 53 cents per ADS.

Revenue increased 63 percent to $306.5 million.

Shares of the company were up 6 percent at $2.27, after touching a high of $2.34 earlier on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has risen 65 percent since the company said in November that margins would turn positive in the fourth quarter. (Reporting By Kanika Sikka in Bangalore; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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