TPI Composites

By Barney Smith

TPI Composites makes composite blades for wind turbines, just the blades, not the whole turbine. It claims it is the only “ US-based independent manufacturer of composite wind blades with a global footprint”. The company’s headquarters are in Scottsdale, Arizona and it operates factories in the U.S., China, Mexico, Turkey and India –global enough for me. It also runs additional engineering development centres in Denmark and Germany.  Despite the challenging environment driven by COVID-19, with its attendant short-term manufacturing disruptions, the company delivered better than planned results for the first quarter of this year, ending 31 March 2020, growing net sales by 19 per cent. By comparison with a net loss of $12.1 million in the same period in 2019, there was a greatly reduced net loss of $0.5 million. Even so, this loss largely reflects reduced production levels at the manufacturing facilities in China in the first quarter, say approximately $9 million, net of around $2 million of income taxes. All this due to the virus and the lockdown.

According to the website, the President of TPI commented “Notwithstanding the problems driven by COVID-19, the demand for wind energy remains strong and we remain encouraged by our long-term prospects. Wind energy remains one of the most cost-effective sources of energy and TPI is at the forefront of this shift to renewable energy given our strategic role in the wind energy supply chain.” Provided that demand remains strong, the expectation would be that any reduction in wind power installations in 2020 would only be a delay, resulting in a spill-over into 2021.

 The annual report tells us that TPI’s manufacturing facilities in China have resumed their operations after an extended Spring Festival holiday due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

TPI’s Indian manufacturing facility located in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, a relatively new investment, has slowly begun to resume operations (like other renewables there) but with rather limited production levels of only 25-30 per cent as India’s lockdown measures have started to ease for key industrial sectors.

Image by Steppinstars from Pixabay

 In Turkey, TPI operated its manufacturing plant in Izmir during the first half of April with approximately 50 per cent production capacity following a Turkish  government request, from a desire  to stem the spread of the virus. Due to global supply chain disruptions, the plant in Turkey was also affected by the shortage of blade core materials and approximately two weeks of production will be lost in Q2 2020. The expectation is that the resulting loss of sales will negatively affect working capital in Turkey in Q2.

As of today, Mexico remains the biggest challenge.  The Company is currently operating the Matamoros facility at approximately 50 per cent capacity and may be required to continue to run at a reduced capacity for some time. All of the four factories in Juarez facilities are now temporarily shut down due to the “sanitary emergency” and lack of clarity around what constitutes an “essential” business.  TPI expects that blade production in the second quarter will accordingly be significantly negatively affected.

One of the company’s US facilities, at Rhode Island, has not been affected by the crisis, but the other facility, in Newton, Iowa, was shut down on 23 April because of the increase in the number of COVID-19 diagnoses in surrounding counties, including colleagues who worked at the plant. On 4 May it restarted operations with limited production, implementing a mandatory COVID-19 testing programme for all new Iowa employees.

Perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, the temporary shutdown of factories in Mexico and Iowa has had the effect of actually increasing inventory levels, but it is expected that raw material suppliers will be affected by the virus. A tight supply of core materials will continue,  due to the lockdown in Ecuador, a major exporter of balsa wood, a key component in turbine blades.  

But, given the prospects, perhaps the real question is why they did not make more money in Q1 2020? Are they being squeezed by the end producers? Is there some price inelasticity here? At all events, we have to hope that a healthier profit picture is to come.

By | 2020-06-08T18:30:15+00:00 June 9th, 2020|Wind|Comments Off on TPI Composites