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Hanwha SolarOne Co. Ltd. (NASDAQ:HSOL)

Q4 2011 and FY 2011 Earnings Call

March 15, 2012 8:00 AM ET

Executives

Paul Combs – VP-Strategic Planning, IR

Ki-Joon Hong – CEO

Pyo Seo – CFO

Cheul Kim – President

Dong Kim – Chief Strategy Officer

Justin Lee – Chief Commercial Officer

Analysts

Kelly Dougherty – Macquarie

Philip Shen – Roth Capital Partners

David Epstein – CRT Capital

Operator

Good morning and thank you for standing by and welcome to the Q4 2011 Earnings Conference Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later there will be a question-and-answer session. (Operator Instructions) I must advise you that this conference is being recorded today, March 15, 2012.

I would now like to hand the floor over to our speaker, Mr. Paul Combs, VP of Investor Relations for Hanwha SolarOne. Sir, you may begin.

Paul Combs

Thank you and good morning everyone, welcome to our call. Joining me today are my colleagues, our Chairman and CEO, Ki-Joon Hong; our President Cheul Kim; CFO, Jay Seo; and D.K. Kim our chief Strategy Officer. I would also like to introduce my new partner in Investor Relations, her name is Mia Yong Chim she has joined us from Seoul from the Hanwha Group. I’m confident you will find her both quite capable and enjoyable to deal with.

Chairman Hong will now open with some brief comments about our thoughts on the industry and our business. Jay will follow with some abbreviated highlights of the fourth quarter. Cheul will highlight some areas of focus for the company followed by D.K. who will conclude with a few comments on several key strategic initiatives key to driving the company’s future success. We will then be happy of course to answer any questions you may have.

Before we begin, I’d like to remind you that you can download a PowerPoint file that will accompany this presentation from our website. I would also like to remind you of our Safe Harbor policy, which is also included in the earnings release and posted in its entirety on slide two of the slide package. I need to state that our comments today will contain some forward-looking statements that are not subject to – that are subject to risk and uncertainties. Please review our filings with the SEC for a complete rundown of these risks. Now, it is my pleasure to turn the call over to Chairman, Hong.

Ki-Joon Hong

Thank you, Paul and good morning everyone. The year 2011 had seen an umbrella of addition, growth for the solar industry and for Hanwha SolarOne. The industry value is clear, unprecedented price decline. The velocity has changed in key markets although complexity leading to reduced manufacturing utilization and in some cases even company failures. For us factored in our course leading to the financial losses you can see from our leases.

We expect that this current operating environment continue for March of 2012 and you look for better operating environment beginning in 2013. No one should question our company’s commitment or that of our largest shareholder to build Hanwha SolarOne for long-term success. This will not happen overnight and it’s being – during difficult times that I see.

As you know, we added two key managers to the team late last year, Charles King and CK King. Charles is a proven and seasoned executive and has led successful companies through the worst before. CK has been involved in the entire solar chain of Hanwha Group and therefore signals the importance, our largest shareholder places on driving success at Hanwha SolarOne.

We thank you for your continued interest in Hanwha SolarOne and your support as we mitigate our ways through this industry downturn and work hard to do a company with bright future. Now Pyo Seo, our CFO, will walk you through some financial highlights.

Pyo Seo

Thank you, good afternoon and good morning everyone. As Paul mentioned earlier, I will now take you through our fourth quarter 2011 results. In order to get the call at the reasonable length, I want to run through results for the full year and trust you can get what you need from the release and financial statements. My comments follow along with slides but read through it. Our shipments exceeded previously implied range.

We still got geographic diversification and grow in important new markets. As you have seen from this release, we recorded $94.8 million in non-cash charges including inventory write-downs, provisions for advance payment associated with long-term supply contracts, and some goodwill impairment is negatively affect our performance and resulted in a GAAP net loss of $132.3 million.

Prices continued to decline more rapidly than our costs, which put pressure on profitability. At the same time, we continue to invest in areas necessary for long-term growth. On the cost side, we continued to improve our in-house cost structure in spite of low utilization. Our balance sheet remains sound with healthy cash balance, working capital discipline, and access to necessary credit. We also wrote back approximately $50 million of our convertible bonds year-to-date.

Future purchases will depend on market conditions and other needs for cash. Also some further debate about quarter, PV module shipments including module processing services, were 189 megawatts, down about 6% from 200.9 megawatt in Q3 2011, while our ASP declined to $1 from $1.23 in the second quarter. Note that, based on our revised annual guidance on – Q4 quarter in the range of 160 to 180 megawatts. So we enjoyed better than expected demand and exceeded the high-end of the range.

Lower volumes and lower prices combined to reduced revenues 32% from the previous quarter to $154.4 million. As mentioned earlier, we posted a gross loss of $96.1 million compared with the gross loss of $25 million last quarter. The gross loss in the third quarter included the effect of a non-cash inventory write-down of $30.6 million.

Gross margin was negative 61.8% compared with negative 10.8% in the previous quarter, primarily due to the combination of a steep decline in ASP and a significant negative effect of the inventory write-downs and provisions for pre-payments. Without provisions, growth margin for Q4 would have been negative 20.1%.

On an operating basis, we lost $160 million primarily because of the same reasons I just stated. In addition to increased spending on marketing and sales and general and administrative costs to improve branding, management system and people. A total impairment of $21.4 million and other non-cash profit and sales $8.7 million also fell in this category.

On a GAAP basis, we recorded a net loss of $132.3 million or $1.67 per basic ADS. On a non-GAAP basis, we recorded a net loss of $137 million or $1.62 per basic ADS. This figure was also affected by a gain due to the change in fair value of our convertible bonds, which is largely influenced by the movement in our stock price. This is an item over which we have no control.

Before commenting on the balance sheet, let me summarize a few more important data points. First, shipments by geographic location as seen on slide six, the U.S. emerged as the biggest market for us, accounting for 33% of total shipments. Germany was our second largest market at 23% of total shipments, balanced on 45% in the prior quarter, followed by China at 13% and India at 11%.

With its OEM business in Germany was responsible for the percentage decline there. Also even though the U.S. was a strong market, we sacrificed some volume by taking in part to our record in December when the possibility of destructive tariff became apparent. We also consciously close to avoid credit risk.

Some of our competitors were providing 200 days or longer and as a result lost the volume potential there. Our processing cost excluding the non-cash provisions as illustrated on slide seven improved during the fourth quarter. Our blended cost of goods sold fell to $1.16, representing a nearly 5% decrease from the previous quarter. Our cost using internal wafers and cells fell meaningfully from $1.13 to $1.03.

The primary factor here was the decrease in the price of polysilicon and continued progress on a number of cost reduction initiatives. We estimate lower utilization negatively analyzed these numbers by approximately $0.08 per watt. Also moving away from some historically high price wafer contracts doesn’t improve our cost restructure going forward. Our average polysilicon cost for the fourth quarter was $42 per kilogram, falling from an average of $56.5 per kilogram in Q3 2011. We expect the price of polysilicon to decline further in the first quarter of 2012 to the $30 to $35 range.

Now, shifting to the balance sheet, as shown on slide eight. As of December 31, 2011, our cash and cash equivalents balance increased by $26.3 million to $314 million. Net working capital declined to $134.5 million and totaled $144.3 million. This is primarily due to reduced receivables and inventories. So, short-term bank borrowings increased 9% to $319 million primarily to cover working capital needs. Our outstanding long-term debt, which includes a non-current portion of long-term bank borrowings and our convertible bonds, remained fairly constant at $294.1 million.

Clearly, credit conditions in China are tightening overall, but we continue to have access to funding, have newest credit lines of around $500 million composed of $75 million in long-term facility and $425 million in short-term credit lines and believe we have a financial capacity to manage the industry downturn now underway. We are also actively (inaudible) additional banks relationship outside in the China including Korea.

The backing of Hanwha continues to work in our favor. Previously, most of the work remains tight. We intend to play a more active role in providing customers product financing typically six months in duration, which should help improve our competitive position and provide reasons for a higher price to sales.

We are actively working with several Chinese banks for this purpose. Accounts receivable declined sharply to $85.4 million somewhat due to lower shipments and revenue, but also to expedite collection practices. Days sales outstanding increased slightly from 80 days in Q3 2011 to 82 days in Q4 of 2011 reflecting relatively high credit control balance or against customers demand for longer payment terms in the current business environment.

Inventories were reduced by about half to $109 million during the quarter. So, we had to take a $3.4 million write-down for the LCM assessment and $15.6 million for the obsolescence provision. Days inventory outstanding decreased from 59 days in the prior quarter to 53 days in the fourth quarter.

Capital expenditures in the fourth quarter were $48 billion and $381 million for the full year used primarily for capacity expansion earlier in the year. We finished the year with capacity of 800 megawatt for ingot and wafer, 1.3 gigawatt for cell and 1.5 gigawatt for module. We have no specific plans to add capacity in near term and will continue to evaluate our needs as the operating environment evolves.

Our initial thought look to spend around $100 billion in capital in 2012. Cheul will now focus on several important objectives for the company.

Cheul Kim

Thank you, Seo, and good morning, everyone. As the Chairman, Hong, noted earlier, not only (inaudible).

Today, I’ll touch on a few areas of transition in our business model, which we believe are critical to our long-term success and DK will follow with some additional thoughts in his comments.

Currently, we see moderate pricing between $0.84 to $0.88 per watt. At this level, few companies can generate net profit and for us to this sort of (inaudible), we needed to drive our cost structure down and transition into one of the lowest cost suppliers.

As Seo indicated, we made some progress in reducing our cost structure during the fourth quarter in spite of relatively low factory utilization. We are currently seeing non-poly processing costs for a standard multi-module of $0.50 per watt. If we were growing at more normalized levels of utilization, we believe this number will – to the mid $0.60. So our year-end target of low $0.60 well within reach. Our specific targets for processing costs are $0.11 for ingot and wafer, $0.18 for cell, and $0.30 or below for module.

Slide 10 shows our roadmap for cost reduction in 2012. There are large number of factors involved in accomplishing this goal but the general categories of improvement includes improved – efficiency, increased automation, higher yields and cell efficiencies and the material substitution and reduction.

The second area of transition for us is from an OEM to a branded product business model. In the past a few large OEM customers accounted for at least half of our shipment volumes and the customer and the geography concentration was at risk. Any volatility in OEM orders had a significant impact on our reserves.

As Jay mentioned previously our shipments to Germany were cut in half from the previous quarter. So, historically our shipment volume may have been large, but our brand was largely disguised in the form of our OEM product. This will change going forward and provide us with a good opportunity to penetrate new and broader distribution channels and also to narrow the price difference with the Tier-1 competitors.

Going forward, we expect the U.S., China, and Asia in general to provide a meaningful portion of near-term incremental new market demand. And it’s critical to observing some loss volume in Europe. In the U.S., we are placed with the potential duties and responsibilities. We believe the potential for this is real and have chosen not to take importer of record risk. We are currently supplying modules to the U.S. manufacturer on an OEM basis in Korea.

We look to strengthen the residential and commercial segments, engage key features and EPC companies, and maximize our opportunities in the utility segment. Our corporation with Hanwha Group’s trading and project business is building. China is clearly burgeoning market in 2012 and beyond. Market estimates of – may prove to be conservative. Our goal is 20% of (inaudible) or a minimum of 200 megawatts.

Our specific initiatives in our home market include developing a broader customer base, focus on long-term strategic customer issue, penetrates the commercial market in large our base and technical support team and strengthen relationship with three of the (inaudible).

Italy will shrink in market from a year ago, but we believe it still has (inaudible) of the potential and we have an opportunity to reposition our brands there in the commercial and the residential segment. And as a result, we’ll expand our sales present. Other view market like India, Japan and South Africa are on our (inaudible) and show good longer term potential.

Now I’ll ask DK to give you a few final key strategic initiatives as (inaudible) our transition story.

Dong Kim

Thanks Cheul and good morning. There are three additional areas of transition underway at the company that I’d like to briefly comment on today. And they are critical to the long-term success of the company. The first is our growing synergy with the Hanwha Group. Most of the effort here has been transparent to the world at large and is only reflected in our financials as higher expenses for banding technology management systems and people.

The year 2012 is when we begin to see real volume and revenue contribution. Our parent company’s life insurance subsidiary, Korea Life, is actually providing project finance support project finances of course in other parent entity Hanwha Solar Energy and we will be the logical choice as a module supplier. We see at least 100 megawatts of potential to share. Hanwha SolarOne is also looking to participate directly in projects where returns are high and risks are low.

The next point of transition for the company in the business model itself. It is clear to us and I’m sure to many of you as well that a midstream supplier of an undifferentiated PV crystalline module to low margin business at best.

Increasingly the profit opportunity will be captured downstream and this is where we are headed. This market transition is illustrated on slide 11. Note this is where synergies and corporation with the parent companies downstream activities become increasingly important.

The next slide shows the migration from our current high quality manufacturing platform. This starts with selective downstream investment coupled with product bundling, storage and systems management. The remaining step is developing a core set of downstream capabilities and leveraging this competency as a true project developer.

The Hanwha organization is aggressively pursuing a number of technology initiatives both inside of larger Hanwha Group and at Hanwha SolarOne. We operate three distinct technical centers as follows. We have a solar tech center in China which is focused on manufacturing technologies and process improvement. A Solar R&D center in Korea which is concentrating on process technologies and technology commercialization. And a global R&D headquarter in the USA which is working on future breakthrough technologies.

Our primary objective near term is to raise cell efficiency as shown on slide 13. Currently we are achieving about 16.75% for Multi and a little over 18% for Mono. We expect these both increase by year end of 2012 with multi rising to over 17.25% and mono over 18.5%. Technology advances actively being pursued currently include Cast model like multi enabling as much as 1.2% efficiency gain, high performance cell design, incorporating advanced emitter technology with 0.4 to 0.6 cell efficiency gain and high-value module products with compact high-durability designs.

Our long term technology roadmap is illustrated on slide 14. We are always looking for cheaper, higher-quality materials and more sophisticated cell designs as well as better module designs. Time is limited on call like this, but I hope that’s given you a glimpse of where we see the company evolving and ultimately building greater shareholder value.

Now, Jay will conclude with some brief comments on the outlook for 2012.

Pyo Seo

Thank you, DK. I would like to close by noting that the current business environment remains quite volatile with a number of moving places. So forecasting becomes difficult at best. However, we do feel that we can drive three-month volumes to around 1 gigawatt in 2012. We are not prepared to offer specific margin guidance at this time.

We’re now happy to answer any questions you may have. Joining us for the Q&A session are three additional senior managers, Tai Seng Png, COO and Kin Lee, our CCO and (inaudible) our technology VP. Operator, please open the call for questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from the line of Kelly Dougherty of Macquarie.

Kelly Dougherty – Macquarie

Good evening everybody, and thanks for taking the question. Just a clarification on the ASP comment, you talked about $0.84 to $0.88, is that how we should think about your ASPs in the first quarter, and if that’s the case, what do you think your margin potential is for this quarter and there may be a little bit longer term, what do you think a sustainable margin level is with all of the initiatives you have in place as you look a little bit into the future?

Justin Lee

Well, can’t we know with uncertainties and the builder market especially up with Fit Cut in Germany. The price is still volatile but we believe the price range it will be – in or around $0.85 plus minus. And then with this kind of pricing, no TV manufactures will be sustainable so this is kind of in a mud-gain but with a strong effort of the cost reduction and the (inaudible), expended services, we’re going to be a survivor in this market.

Kelly Dougherty – Macquarie

Okay, I mean, do you have looking longer term in India where you’re think an acceptable margin level would be?

Ki-Joon Hong

So, on the part of the answer by Justin, so I’m going to say about the margin. So along with the ASPs about 84% – around 82% – 80%, so I think we can make – we can reach the breakeven point of gross margins this year. So according to – depending on the sales volumes, it varies, but I think we cannot make operating margin this year. So as I already mentioned, it is up to the market situation, and so I have a brighter side for next year. And so, I think we can make – we can reach a breakeven point at pre-tax income from next year.

Unidentified Company Representative

Yeah. I’ll add one thing. With this price and the cost structure, (inaudible) is making money, so previously there, we’ll have the restructuring in this industry. It is a consolidation. So with this restructuring the market we cover and with these suppliers who survives to make profit.

Kelly Dougherty – Macquarie

Okay. How about – you’ve been spending a lot more on OpEx recently to build your own brand and how should we think about OpEx on either quarterly or annual basis for 2012?

Unidentified Company Representative

As you open (inaudible) to the actually last year, our OpEx ratio is still a little bit higher than expected. However, this year I can expect it- I can expected OpEx expense at 10% of revenues you said, sorry.

Ki-Joon Hong

Yeah, right.

Kelly Dougherty – Macquarie

Okay, great. Thanks. And then just one more question, are you through with the high cost poly and wafer release still in inventory so we should think about as we move forward through 2012 your procurement costs and your blended costs running through the income statement as – is relatively similar?

Ki-Joon Hong

I don’t think so. Actually silicon and other working process the volume of them is not so high right now, and we already raised up the provision for those then, so actually – the actual cost of them is very low. So I’m thinking we can make a good result this year.

Kelly Dougherty – Macquarie

Okay, great, thank you very much.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Min Xu of Jefferies.

Unidentified Analyst

Hey, good evening gentlemen Hanwha and teams. Thanks for taking my question. So yesterday Vaccour provided a pretty cautious outlook on poly demand and ASP, you also mentioned that upstream profitability is quite difficult. So is Hanwha Chemicals still on track to build the poly plant and can you give us some update?

Unidentified Company Representative

As long as the Hanwha Chemical is still proceeding this construction of new polysilicon plant in Korea. And the – as I mentioned earlier we expect maybe at the end of next year the market will recover, so that means the poly price will be better than this year. And also the capacity of the Hanwha Chemicals plant trended 10,000 metric ton (inaudible) economical size. So they can make SP very competitive of costs comparing to the other three players.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay, thanks for the color. So, what is the seasonality building to your 1 gigawatt 2012 shipment guidance? How should we think about the volume trend in Q1?

Unidentified Company Representative

Q1 volume will be slightly lower than the Q4 level.

Unidentified Analyst

And you expect to see volume increase in both Q2, Q3 and Q4?

Unidentified Company Representative

Well, we expect Q2 quarterly will be improved. For Q3, it is too early to forecast at this moment due to the uncertainty in the European markets.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay. Thanks a lot.

Unidentified Company Representative

We are actually diversifying our presence globally and we already run the full TTM project. We have to extend our coverage globally. So we will see the actual results in the second half of this year.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay, great. Thank you very much.

Operator

(Operator Instructions). The next question comes from the line of Philip Shen of Roth Capital Partners.

Philip Shen – Roth Capital Partners

Hi, thanks for taking my questions. Just as a quick follow up to the ASP question earlier. Can you give us a sense for how you see ASPs trending through the year and what your expectations are as we exit the year?

Ki-Joon Hong

Well again the ASP this year could be so fluctuating, but I don’t see the ASP will likely improve drastically. So, it’ll be in the range of $0.80 to $0.90 in between.

Philip Shen – Roth Capital Partners

Okay, and in terms of your 1 gigawatt shipping guidance, what are your expectations for geographic shipping mix in 2012 as well?

Ki-Joon Hong

Yeah, even though the European market is declining, still we’ll some put some energy to capture the market in Europe and then second largest market in U.S., China and the other emerging markets including India. So, now we’re going to put our more energies to diversify our market portfolio.

Philip Shen – Roth Capital Partners

Okay, thanks.

Operator

(Operator Instructions). Your next question comes from the line of David Epstein of CRT Capital.

David Epstein – CRT Capital

Hi, I had two questions. First question is, can you tell us at what price ranges or what average price you bought back the $50 million of convertibles?

Ki-Joon Hong

So as I already mentioned in my speech, so, we bought $50 million convertible bonds, but the average price is by the market price, so probably you know the market price.

David Epstein – CRT Capital

Right.

Ki-Joon Hong

We can buy more at CB, actually depending on the market. And so, I cannot say clearly about (inaudible) I can provide the information.

David Epstein – CRT Capital

Right. Do you know the total dollar figure you spent to buyback the $50 million phase.

Ki-Joon Hong

We’re not going to go there. I think Jay’s answer was sufficient. So...

David Epstein – CRT Capital

Okay, okay. Second question I had is, you guys talked about 54.4 million in provisions from advanced payments on the company’s purchase under long-term supply contracts. I think as of 9/30/2011, your total advances to suppliers had been 119 million, that might not be the analogous bucket to compare to, I’m not sure. But can you give a little bit more color of, what led to that charge? Lot of folks in the industry have historically been able to get out of purchased commitments without too much of a penalty. And we’re just wondering sort of what determined the penalty that you guys had to take.

Pyo Seo

So, if I breakdown the loan cash right write-down and so – inventory write-down is $19 million and goodwill impairment is $21.4 million, and our advance payments on long-term supply contracts is $54.4 million. So – so regarding inventory write-downs, LCM is $3.4 million and obsolescence is $15.6 million.

And regarding advance payments write-downs, we – even though we made $54.4 million right now. However, I mean that consists of four different contracts. However, I cannot give the detailed information, because all of this are still under negotiation then it might impact the negotiations so, if you’re like serious or if you contact me offline so that I can give that information.

David Epstein – CRT Capital

Thank you. Regarding the inventory obsolescence, can you give a little bit more color of sort of what lead to obsolescence?

Pyo Seo

So, all-in-all sort of since write-downs, normal is $3.3 million and there was $11.7 million onetime obsolescence right now.

Ki-Joon Hong

There is an old and abnormal and irregular, multiple inventory?

David Epstein – CRT Capital

Thank you very much.

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Your next question comes from the line of Bryan Gamble of Simmons & Company.

Unidentified Analyst

Good evening, this is actually (inaudible) calling in for Bryan. Thanks for taking my questions. First question if you could detail your internal versus external wafer use during the quarter and we should think about internal versus external wafer use going forward that would be great?

Ki-Joon Hong

Can you speak up a little bit more.

Unidentified Company Representative

I understood the question, that the question you all has become...

Unidentified Analyst

The wafer internal.

Unidentified Company Representative

Yeah, internal and external wafer.

Pyo Seo

Yeah, currently it’s the ratio 50-50. We are purchasing from outside the 50% and in-house making 50%. And going forward how should we think about the ratio proceedings.

Ki-Joon Hong

Going forward, as long as the outside purchasing is cheaper than the in-house making, we will increase this percentage. However, considering the long-term competitiveness, we will keep our plant – we will continuously operate our plant. So lastly I can say that we will purchase around 50% to 70% from outside and 30% to 50% in-house.

Unidentified Analyst

Great, thank you. That’s helpful. And looking forward in the area where you’re not going to be able to have a positive operating margin, how do you think we should think about the tax expense or the tax benefit. Is there a way that we should think about modeling that?

Unidentified Company Representative

Your question is positive operating margin and tax benefit?

Unidentified Analyst

Right, I’m wondering how should we think about the tax expense or tax benefit going forward?

Unidentified Company Representative

Yeah, that’s what last year we couldn’t make money and so I’m not sure how can we have tax benefit about that.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay, thank you very much.

Operator

(Operator Instructions) I would like to turn the call back over to Mr. Combs for closing remarks.

Paul Combs

Okay. Thanks everyone for participating in the call. As you know I’m happy to help you anyway we can offline. So, have a great day. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you for your participation. This concludes today’s conference. You may now disconnect.

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