Gamesa Warns of Delays in Wind Turbine Orders

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Cracks are starting to appear in the wind-power business: Spain’s Gamesa hinted yesterday ahead of its annual meeting that some customers are delaying orders for new turbines due to trouble landing financingGamesa, one of the world’s top-three turbine makers, seems to be backing off projections for 2009 orders it made just two weeks ago. From Bloomberg:

“We have had delays on orders,” [chairman and chief executive Guillermo] Ulacia said. “Clients have asked for more flexibility into 2010 and 2011, especially the large clients, who have delayed 30 percent.” He said customers were having difficulty getting financing for projects.

The Spanish stock exchange suspended trading in Gamesa shares Friday morning, prompting the company to retort that it hasn’t revised downward 2009 sales estimates, Dow Jones Newswires reports.

Either way, Gamesa’s not alone in facing headwinds; Denmark’s Vestas just “lost faith” in European wind markets and is shuttering some factories. Vestas is banking on the U.S. and China to pick up the slack.

What’s particulary striking about Gamesa’s warning is that big customers appear to be getting cold feet. Since the credit crisis began, it’s been an article of faith in the industry that well-capitalized utility companies are safe customers for companies like Gamesa and Vestas precisely because they don’t need to scrounge for cash, unlike smaller, independent wind-farm developers.

In a way, that’s just the cost of hitching your wagon to big utilities. Gamesa’s biggest customer (and biggest shareholder) is Iberdrola, the Spanish power company. In boom times, a record wind-turbine deal with Iberdrola gave Gamesa plenty of long-term security. Now that Iberdrola is paring back wind-power investments, Gamesa appears to be suffering.

More broadly, Gamesa’s cautious outlook shows that a big increase in government support for wind power isn’t necessarily enough to offset the effects of the financial meltdown. For all the new clean-energy support, growth in the U.S. wind-power market will still fall short of last year. And China’s wind market seems a tough nut to crack for foreign companies.

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