/28th March 2018, DGAP-News/. SMA Solar Technology AG (SMA/FWB: S92) generated a new sales record in 2017 with around 8.5 GW of inverter output sold (2016: 8.2 GW). SMA Group sales were below the previous year's level at EUR891.0 million (2016: EUR946.7 million). The decline was caused primarily by the sharp decline in demand in the U.S. utility market which could not be compensated for by the positive development in the Asian and European business.
EBITDA amounted to EUR97.3 million (EBITDA margin: 10.9%; 2016: EUR141.5 million, 14.9%) and was therefore at the top end of the guidance raised by the Managing Board in August. All segments were profitable in the last fiscal year.
Net income was at the previous year's level at EUR30.1 million (2016: EUR29.6 million). Earnings per share thus amounted to EUR0.87 (2016: EUR0.85). Due to its attractive business model and increased flexibility,
SMA generated high operating cash flow of EUR116.8 million (2016: EUR147.5 million). Net cash was further expanded to EUR449.7 million (December 31, 2016: EUR362.0 million). With an equity ratio of 50.3% (December 31, 2016: 48.3%) at the end of 2017, SMA has an extremely solid balance sheet structure. In addition, the company has a long-term credit line of EUR100 million from domestic banks. In light of this financial stability and positive business prospects, the Managing Board and the Supervisory Board will recommend that the Annual General Meeting on May 24, 2018, set a dividend of EUR0.35 per share for the 2017 fiscal year. This corresponds to a dividend payout ratio of 40% of net income.
\"The 2017 fiscal year reflects the dynamics of the solar industry,\" explained SMA Chief Executive Officer Pierre-Pascal Urbon. \"Due to the regulatory environment, our U.S. business saw a sudden decline in demand, while SMA benefited from the positive market development in Europe and Asia. Our international positioning has proven its worth, just as expansion in the storage system and service business has. We are satisfied with the EBIT generated.\"
For the first quarter of 2018, the SMA Managing Board is anticipating sales of approximately EUR180 million (Q1 2017: EUR173.2 million) and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of approximately EUR18 million (Q1 2017: EUR15.9 million). The SMA Managing Board is confirming its sales and earnings guidance for the 2018 fiscal year as published on January 24, 2018, which forecasts sales of between EUR900 million and EUR1,000 million and EBITDA of between EUR90 million and EUR110 million. For the first time, EBITDA includes expenses of more than EUR10 million for setting up the digital business. The Managing Board estimates that depreciation and amortization will amount to approximately EUR50 million. \"With the positive business development in the first quarter and our large order backlog, we are well on the way to achieving the goals set for this year,\" said Urbon. \"We are focusing on introducing new solutions to
further strengthen our competitiveness in the core business. At the same time, we are investing in digital business models to benefit from the attractive energy service business in the medium term.\".
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