Tuesday, August 07, 2012

(BN) Ascent Solar Sales Shift to Consumers, IPhones, CEO Says

Aug. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Ascent Solar Technologies Inc. expects consumer electronics to drive sales of its thin-film solar products, Chief Executive Officer Victor Lee said.

About 70 to 80 percent of sales will come from consumer electronics "going forward," he said today, such as the solar- powered charging case for Apple Inc.'s iPhone the Thornton, Colorado-based company announced in June.

The company is shifting its focus away from the rooftop solar market, where prices for standard photovoltaic panels plunged 37 percent in the past year, making its products less competitive.

Rooftop solar panels have "dirt cheap average sale prices," Lee said in a telephone interview.

"We don't want to be in that," Lee said. "Our strategy is to focus on high margin, high premium" applications.

Ascent's solar panels are thinner and lighter than panels made from polysilicon, and they are flexible, which makes them well-suited for military uses, as well as backpacks, tents and other consumer products. They are also more expensive than silicon panels, Lee said, without providing a price.

"At the moment, given our capacity, our costs are still higher than the industry average," Lee said. "That's precisely the reason we don't want to compete in that area."

'Too Early'

The company is developing a line of consumer devices, focused initially on solar-charging cases for Apple and Samsung Electronics Co. mobile phones. Ascent's market value has more than doubled since it announced its iPhone case, to about $52 million. Lee wouldn't discuss future products.

The shift to consumer products "doesn't seem to be big enough to move the needle on earnings," Robert Stone, an analyst for Cowen & Co LLC in Boston, said in an interview today. "It's too early to tell."

Ascent isn't exiting the rooftop market completely. It said yesterday it would provide panels for a power system that Foxconn Technology Group is building at its plant in Zhengzhou, China. Foxconn manufactures Apple's iPhones and iPads. Lee wouldn't say whether the relationship may extend to including Ascent's solar products in electronic devices produced by Foxconn.

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