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Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. will introduce a new generation of its successful 72-cell module for commercial and utility-scale electricity generation in Europe. The module variant with 15.7% efficiency is ideally suited for large-scale commercial projects seeking a low levelized cost of energy (LCOE). In addition, the new Ve-Series modules feature a slim frame design lowering storage and shipment costs by up to 16%.

The new modules will be available throughout Europe starting in November 2012. Suntech's SuperPoly technology achieves high efficiency by utilizing an advanced ingot casting process, which combines the benefits of mono-crystalline silicon wafers (high efficiency) and poly-crystalline silicon wafers (square wafers and better temperature performance) into one product. With 72 six-inch cells, the new 1956x992x40mm module boasts one of the highest fill factors in the industry and lowers project installation costs.

An improved design reduces frame thickness from 50mm to 40mm, providing a 1.2 kg reduction in total module weight, without compromising on module stability or durability. The module is certified to withstand extreme wind (3,800 Pascal) and snow (5,400 Pascal) loads. This superior frame design not only facilitates efficient module handling and installation, but allows for more modules to be installed on rooftops with tight weight constraint, highly relevant for many industrial projects.

In addition, a new texturing process has changed the cell appearance of the SuperPoly Ve-Series. Whereas former SuperPoly cells showed both mono- and poly-silicon parts, the new cell's appearance is similar to standard polycrystalline cells while maintaining the SuperPoly advantages such as higher efficiency. The new product line also features Suntech's industry-leading 25-year power output warranty, with positive power tolerance, and a workmanship warranty of 10 years.

Recently, in September, Suntech Power Holdings announced preliminary financial results for the second quarter ended June 30, 2012. In the reported quarter, greater demand from European markets, China, Japan and Australia drove sequential shipment growth. As a result, Suntech's shipments of PV products for the quarter increased by approximately 33% from the first quarter of 2012, higher than the previous guidance of a 20% increase in PV shipments.

In the third quarter of 2012, Suntech expects PV shipments to be relatively flat with the second quarter of 2012. Suntech now expects 2012 annual PV shipments to be in the range of 1.8GW to 2.0GW, compared with its previous guidance of 2.1GW to 2.5GW.

Based in Wuxi, China, Suntech Power Holdings Company Ltd. is a solar energy company that designs, develops, manufactures and markets a variety of PV products, including a broad range of value-added building-integrated photovoltaics, or BIPV, products. The company manufactures silicon wafers and ingots used in manufacturing its PV cells (both monocrystalline and multi crystalline) and modules. Suntech’s PV system integration services include the design, installation, commissioning and testing of PV systems. Suntech's PV system integration services include planning, engineering, procurement of permits and equipment, construction management, monitoring and maintenance.

Suntech Power’s geographically diversified customer base insulates it from risk. Other positive factors for Suntech include ongoing expansion programs, higher conversion efficiency through its Pluto technology-enabled modules, subsidy program in China, and improving operating efficiencies.

However, the positives are overshadowed by fears of tepid module demand in Europe, rising competition, the volatile Euro and the financial stability of its customers. The company presently retains a short-term Zacks #3 Rank (Hold) that corresponds with our long-term Neutral recommendation on the stock.

Suntech’s competitors in the solar industry are First Solar Inc. (FSLR - Analyst Report) and SunPower Corporation (SPWR - Analyst Report).

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