Trina Solar reported yesterday. Bad numbers as expected. To quote them as to the glut:
Despite this achievement [which in Trina's case was increased sales], growth in worldwide module capacity and peaked channel inventory resulted in significantly lower product prices which adversely affected our bottom line results, whereby our cost reduction was not sufficient to offset lower ASPs [ie average selling prices].I promise you I am not telling anyone anything new here. If you are an investor in the solar-panel industry and have not noticed a supply glut then you are completely non-observant.
What is strange though is that despite the supply glut the capital expenditure in this business - that is building new plant and machinery - goes on regardless.
Here is a line from the balance sheet:
Property plant and equipment at Trina went from 571 million to 920 million in one year. And in the year when the industry became hopelessly oversupplied.
Moreover the rate of increase accelerated in the fourth quarter when the oversupply was obvious to anyone to see - when anti-dumping cases against loss-making Chinese solar panel makers became vogue.
There are lots of things that might be going on here. The company might have a great new technology which is worth investing in even though the industry is glutted (indeed the company points to its "honey" technology). Or the company might be insane. I have my thoughts but I do not have enough knowledge to be certain.
But one friend suggested that this is just an analogue for all of China. Who cares if office buildings are glutted? Just build more. Who cares that the high-speed-rail between two cities you have never heard of, a railway line that consumed valuable steel and concrete by the millions of tonnes is mostly run at a third capacity with empty trains? Build more.
"Build it and they will come" may be the Chinese mantra. Usually only works in Hollywood films.
PS. I should disclose that Bronte still has a short-biased straddle on Trina - but it is a much smaller position. We closed a fair bit for profit - but traded that bit not so well. I should have covered the short end more aggressively when the stock was $6.