Categories Earnings Call Transcripts, Technology

Canadian Solar Inc. (CSIQ) Q4 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

CSIQ Earnings Call - Final Transcript

Canadian Solar Inc.  (NASDAQ: CSIQ) Q4 2020 earnings call dated Mar. 18, 2021

Corporate Participants:

Isabel Zhang — Investor Relations Manager

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yan Zhuang — President, CSI Solar

Ismael Guerrero Arias — Corporate Vice President and President of the Energy business

Huifeng Chang — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Analysts:

JB Lowe — Citi — Analyst

Philip Shen — Roth Capital Partners — Analyst

Colin Rusch — Oppenheimer — Analyst

Brian Lee — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

Mark Strouse — J.P. Morgan — Analyst

Presentation:

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to Canadian Solar’s Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2020 Earnings Conference Call. My name is Ajay, and I will be your operator for today. At this time, all participants are on listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded for replay purposes.

I would now like to turn the call over to Isabel Zhang, IR Manager at Canadian Solar. Please go ahead.

Isabel Zhang — Investor Relations Manager

Thank you, operator, and welcome everyone to Canadian Solar’s fourth quarter and full year 2020 conference call. Please note that we have provided slides to accompany today’s conference call, which are available on Canadian Solar’s Investor Relations website.

Joining us today are Dr. Shawn Qu, Chairman and CEO; Yan Zhuang, President of Canadian Solar’s majority-owned subsidiary, CSI Solar; Dr. Huifeng Chang, Senior VP and CFO; and Ismael Guerrero; Corporate VP and President of Canadian Solar’s wholly-owned Energy business. All Company executives will participate in the Q&A session after management’s formal remarks.

On this call, Shawn will go through an overview of Canadian Solar’s strategy. Yan and Ismael will respectively review the highlights of the CSI Solar and Global Energy segments, respectively, followed by Huifeng, who will go through the financial results. Shawn will conclude the prepared remarks with the business outlook, after which we will have time for questions.

In today’s earnings release, we have provided an overview of the new reporting structure. As a reminder, CSI Solar, which was formerly the Module and System Solutions business, now includes Canadian Solar’s China Energy business as well. In addition, the Global Energy business includes solar projects, O&M and asset management services is now called the Global Energy business. Certain financials will be reported as CSI Solar and Global Energy going forward, and the historical segment financials have been revised to conform to current period presentation. These are provided in today’s results press release.

Before we begin, may I remind listeners that management’s prepared remarks today, as well as their answers to questions will contain forward-looking statements that are subject to risks and uncertainties. Company claims the protection of the Safe Harbor for forward-looking statements that is contained in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Actual results may differ from management’s current expectations. Any projections of the Company’s future performance represent management’s estimates as of today. Canadian Solar assumes no obligation to update these projections in the future, unless otherwise required by applicable law. A more detailed discussion of the risks and uncertainties can be found in the Company’s annual report on Form 20-F filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Management’s prepared remarks will be presented within the requirements of SEC Regulation G regarding Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP. Some financial information presented during the call will be provided on both a GAAP and non-GAAP basis. By disclosing certain non-GAAP information, management intends to provide investors with additional information to permit further analysis of the Company’s performance and underlying trends. Management uses non-GAAP measures to better assess operating performance and to establish operational goals. Non-GAAP information should not be viewed by investors as a substitute for data prepared in accordance with [Technical Issues].

I would now like to turn over the call to Canadian Solar’s Chairman and CEO, Dr. Shawn Qu. Shawn, please go ahead.

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Isabel, and hi, everyone. Welcome, and thanks for joining us today. 2020 was a very challenging year, not only for me, for Canadian Solar, but also for everybody. But it is also a strong one for our business — for the solar business entirely. We delivered 11.3 gigawatts in shipments, $3.5 billion in revenue and 19.8% in gross margin. We also achieved diluted EPS of $2.38. I would like to thank our team for their focus and great work during this challenging year.

In Q4, we delivered 3 gigawatt of shipments, which was towards the high end of our guidance. We also achieved $1.04 billion in revenue and 13.6% in gross margin, both ahead of our expectations. Before Yan, Ismael and Huifeng go through our quarterly results in more details, I would like to share some thoughts on the solar market and Canadian Solar’s strategy.

Now, let’s turn to the Slide number 3. We are at an inflection point in which solar grid parity is met with growing societal awareness of the urgent need to decarbonize the global economy. Solar energy has seen the largest decline in levelized cost of electricity among all sources of electricity over the past decade and now has the most competitive LCOE, according to independent third-party calculations. Likewise, over the past few quarters, we have seen several major economies commit to concrete decarbonization targets, and the increase in frequency of natural catastrophes related to climate change is also adding a high level urgency. These factors are significantly accelerating demand for solar assets with no near end in sight.

To give you some perspective, annual solar installation was around 7 times to 9 times what they were a decade ago. Yet average solar penetration at this moment remains at just 3%. At the penetration — or as the penetration of solar energy and other renewables continues to increase, it will create new market opportunities such as in battery storage. This is a market in which Canadian Solar has become an early mover and has a distinct competitive advantage. I will talk more about that later on.

Now, let’s move to Slide 4. Now, under this backdrop, our growth strategy remains unchanged. Firstly, we’re investing — or we invest in long-term growth and expanding our capacity across the supply chain. Secondly, we are growing our project development market presence and optimizing our project monetization strategies. Lastly, we are executing on multi-year growth areas, including energy storage.

Now, please turn to Slide 5. We have been building out our technology and market expertise in battery storage for several years. And now, we are reaching large scales. We’re starting to see exponential market growth in energy storage. According to Wood Mackenzie, the global energy storage market in 2021 will be 22 gigawatt hours and demand over the next decade will reach 700 gigawatt hours. Of this, front-of-the-meter applications will account for approximately 70% of the total capacity additions, and US will account for roughly half of the global market over the next decade. At Canadian Solar, we have taken this market opportunity very seriously, as we think that this is a game changer, not just for solar energy, but for the global electricity grid. Hence, over the past two years, we have been building our technology in system integration and our total market capabilities in both the CSI Solar as well as our Global Energy segments.

Now, let’s turn to the Slide number 6. As we explained in the press release, the CSI Solar battery solution team is focused on delivering proprietary bankable fully-integrated battery storage solutions. This includes the end-to-end technology offering, the long-term service agreement of the batteries and its future capacity augmentation services. We have nearly 6 gigawatt hours of pipeline in storage system integration business, which is shown on the table on the left hand of this slide.

On the other hand, our storage project development business is now an integrated part of our Global Energy business. We now have nearly 9 gigawatt hours of global utility scale storage pipeline, which is shown on the table on the right-hand side. Our global and geographically-diversified presence gives us a competitive advantage in identifying the early opportunities in storage market and capture attractive returns similar to what we did in solar development in the early days. Some of this are new opportunities. Some are retrofit to solar projects which were delivered in the past. And we work on both co-located solar PV plus [Phonetic] storage projects, as well as stand-alone batteries. There are significant synergies, even though these are two separate teams. Meanwhile, not all the projects overlap, and both teams work on their respective third-party projects as market opportunities arise.

Finally, let’s turn to Slide 7. Regarding the planned China listing of our CSI Solar subsidiary, we are on track, and we have completed all the targeted milestones. We expect to submit the official material to the regulatory authorities and the stock exchange in the next months. We’re targeting to complete IPO within this year. However, as we all know, there are uncertainties. Therefore, it could slip into next year.

With that, let me turn over the call to Yan. He will talk about the performance of CSI Solar. Yan, please go ahead.

Yan Zhuang — President, CSI Solar

Thank you, Shawn. In 2020, we delivered 11.3 gigawatts in shipments, up 32% year-over-year. CSI Solar revenue was $3.1 billion, including around $0.2 billion from China Energy, which was formerly reported as part of the Energy business. In Q4, we delivered $785 million in revenue and 13.5% in gross margin, better than our expectations, as we were able to mitigate some of the cost pressures with increases in average selling price.

Turning to Slide 8, I’d like to update you on the cost situation, which has not improved a great deal since the last quarter. Polysilicon prices remained elevated in Q4 and recently increased by another 33% based on PV Infolink’s data. Prices of most commodities, which include those used by solar modules, continued to increase. And the Chinese RMB, which accounts for the majority of our costs, has continued to appreciate against the main market — the main basket of currencies, which we are exposed to at the revenue level. With cost currency appreciated and revenue currency depreciated, our margin has been squeezed.

On the positive side, with capacity expansion, solar glass prices have started to come down, and we expect it to decline further during the year. We’ve also been working closely with our logistics partners to lower our transportation costs. We expect this will help us gradually reduce some costs through the year. And importantly, we’ve been working closely with our customers, transparently communicating the changing dynamics in our supply chain, which has allowed us to increase prices and share some of the cost burden.

Turning to Slide number 9, it is important to understand that we are approaching the bottom of the solar cost curve. The era of ever-declining solar module prices is largely behind us. In fact, near term, as we have seen, prices are actually going up. This is driven by three main factors. First, the cost of solar has declined by more than 95% over the past two decades, driven by a combination of technology and scale manufacturing, allowing us to move from a subsidy to a market-driven industry. As Shawn mentioned, solar PV is already the cheapest way to produce electricity in most markets and solar LCOE will continue to decline, driven by technology advancements and efficiency gains. Second, the cost of solar modules as a percent of the total system cost has declined from over two-thirds two decades ago — a decade ago, to a third of the total system cost today. So the margin of benefit from further reduction in solar module prices is very small. And third, demand for solar assets is very strong. Given these factors, it no longer pays to wait for solar module prices to come down. We think this is a positive development for our industry as we reach the bottom of the cost curve in the grid parity solar market.

Turning to Slide 10, so what does this mean for us? As one of the top global solar brands, our CSI Solar strategy will increasingly focus on premium markets and segments and channels. For example, we will continue to enhance our market-leading position in the distributed generation markets where we have greater pricing power and a stickier customer base. In fact, last year, more than half of our total shipments went into this channel, even though globally, this channel accounts for less than 40% of the total market. In this channel, the value proposition is driven by the total system solution because user experience matters a lot more than just its utility. This is why we are working on the higher value-add system integration solutions, including battery storage.

For storage, where we are present across all segments, initially focusing on utility scale, but we are also increasingly working on commercial, industrial and residential solutions, which is important for our strategy. As Shawn detailed, we already have a significant pipeline of nearly 6 gigawatt hours, of which nearly 1 gigawatt hours will be delivered this year.

Now, let me pass on to Ismael. Please go ahead, Ismael.

Ismael Guerrero Arias — Corporate Vice President and President of the Energy business

Thank you, Yan. I’m proud to report that we achieved 1.4 gigawatts in project sales in 2020, which exceeded our target. In Q4, we closed over 300 megawatts in project sales, spanning the US, Mexico, Japan, Canada and Italy. Meanwhile, we’ve increased our total project pipeline to over 20 gigawatts from 15 gigawatts one year ago.

Please turn to Slide 11. We are seeing that the demand of solar projects, including hybrid solar plus storage, is increasing dramatically. As one of the few standalone global renewables project developers, we are very well positioned to capitalize on the secular growth trend. Specifically, we are focusing our strategy on the following three areas. First and most importantly is growth. We are expanding our development activities across different geographies and signing PPAs with a growing variety of power purchasers.

We are expanding our permitting and interconnection abilities and strengthening our financial capability to support expanded growth. Recently, we announced the launch of the Japan Green Infrastructure Fund. This is a new development platform that will allow us to accelerate our project development growth in the Japanese market. Note that this is different from the Canadian Solar Infrastructure Fund, which is also sponsored by Canadian Solar, as CSIF holds operating assets only. Overall, we will continue to expand our pipeline and achieve around 20% compound growth in project sales over the next five years. This means, we are currently targeting over 4 gigawatts of project sales by 2025, around 3 times what we did last year.

Second, we have been optimizing our project monetization strategy, from developing and selling projects to retaining minority ownership in projects in certain markets. As I said last quarter, we expect to enrich the Canadian Solar ecosystem to capture additional value through the project lifecycle. We are doing this through capturing the recurring revenues from power production and sales, operations and maintenance or O&M, asset management services, EPC [Phonetic]. Currently, we have around 150 megawatts of proportional assets retained, 2.2 gigawatts of O&M projects in operation and an additional 1.7 gigawatts of contracted O&M projects. By 2025, we expect to reach 1 gigawatt of proportional assets retained and well over 12 gigawatts of O&M projects in operation. This will have significant implications on reducing the risk profile of the Global Energy business by generating stable recurring cash flows. And as we increase the amount of assets retained, the share of recurring cash flows will also increase over time. To achieve this, we have been forming a series of localized capital partnerships with long-term investors. In Japan, for example, we have the Canadian Solar Infrastructure Fund, or CSIF, which we own 15%. CSIF completed a capital raise a few weeks ago, reestablishing its position as the largest infrastructure fund in Japan with around $740 million in assets under management. CSIF’s stable dividend yield and capital appreciation continue to attract a wide range of investors. In Brazil, where we currently have over 2 gigawatts of contracted projects, we recently completed the formation of the FIP-IE infrastructure vehicle. The first assets to be included will soon start construction. Similar vehicles, such as the one we are forming in Italy, will also have projects that are set to start construction over the next couple of quarters.

Third, we are making significant strategic inroads in battery storage projects. In 2020, we have tripled our total storage pipeline, from less than 3 gigawatt hours last year to nearly 9 gigawatt hours this year. Of these, almost 1 gigawatt hour is already under construction. This is very exciting, and we see significant profit and growth opportunities in the storage space.

With that, let me turn over the call to Huifeng. Huifeng, please go ahead.

Huifeng Chang — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Ismael. Please turn to Slide 13. We delivered a Q4 revenue of $1.04 billion, up around the 13% over last quarter. Gross margin in Q4 was 13.6%, well above our guidance of 8% to 10%. While there were various unfavorable dynamics in Q4 that outpaced our higher module ASPs such as the surge in material and logistical costs and appreciation in RMB, we worked hard on our customer engagements and optimized our supply chain to achieve an outcome that came in well above our own expectations for the quarter. Additionally, we successfully closed more than $370 million of project sales in spite of the challenges of the pandemic. To cap off the year, as Shawn mentioned, in 2020, we drove 30% higher volume for module shipment and achieved an overall gross margin of 19.8%.

Equally important, over the years, we have built up two strong business units. To better capture our performance, we have revised our segmented reporting this quarter. Firstly, CSI Solar, which represents our business unit pursuing the carve-out IPO; and secondly, Global Energy. This business captures the project sales and the recurring income from ownership retention and contracting long-term services such as O&M and asset management.

To help investors better understand our battery storage growth story, we are going to present additional information for the new business respectively within the two segments. On CSI Solar, we have storage integration service revenue. And on Global Energy, we will present storage pipeline. Within Global Energy segment, we are not splitting up project sales revenue on the battery storage component from the solar component, as solar hybrid power plants are typically considered as a single inter-linked investment. While Global Energy will continue to report revenue based on projects sold, storage integration service revenue on CSI Solar will be captured based on construction milestones. To give you more color on the announced storage contracts we signed earlier, we expect that the CSI Solar storage revenue contribution will accelerate starting from second quarter of 2021, according to the construction schedules.

Selling and distribution expenses in Q4 increased by 20%, more than revenue growth, due to cost spike for shipping and transportation. On the other hand, G&A expenses were higher, mostly driven by non-cash impairment of manufacturing equipment. This led to a one-time $12 million charge. Otherwise, our G&A would have remained flattish over past quarter. Full-year opex was 2% higher than last year, as transportation cost challenges outpaced tight cost control and lower discretionary expenses. The net foreign exchange gain in the fourth quarter was $4 million. We will continue to reduce currency exposures, particularly against the RMB, and adjust our hedging activities accordingly.

Income tax was a benefit of $2 million this quarter. We expect some factories to carry more future tax benefits as we continue with our manufacturing capacity expansion plan. Net income to shareholders was $7 million in Q4, or $0.11 per diluted share. Full-year income to shareholders was $147 million, or $2.38 per diluted share.

Now, moving onto the balance sheet on Slide 14, we generated substantial cash from $3.5 billion sales this year, which we invested into building a larger operating scale in CSI Solar and in Global Energy. Manufacturing capex was $330 million in 2020, lower than our earlier guidance. Additionally, with the CSI Solar pre-IPO investment round, we raised fresh capital to invest into capex that we’ll expense [Phonetic] into this year. For 2021, we are prepared to invest up to $700 million in capex, depending on market outlook and the conditions. We will continue to retain flexibility to adjust the capex spending this year and prioritize manufacturing productivity and profitability. So with that, our total cash position remained strong at $1.6 billion, giving us the financial flexibility and a prudent cash position to fund the capex spending better than prior years. As cash level remains elevated, we’ve managed down our total debt to $2.2 billion. Our net debt to EBITDA, excluding restricted cash, remained at a healthy level of 2.4 times at the end of the year.

Now, let me pass it back to Shawn, who will conclude with our guidance and business outlook. Shawn?

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks Huifeng. Now, let’s talk about the guidance, both the 2021 Q1 guidance and annual guidance. For the first quarter of 2021, we expect total module shipments to be in the range of 3 gigawatts to 3.2 gigawatts, including approximately 300 megawatt of module shipment to the Company’s own projects. Total revenues are expected to be in the range $1 billion to $1.1 billion. Gross margin is expected to be between 16% to 18%.

For the full year 2021, we iterate — we reiterate total shipments to be in the range of 18 gigawatt to 20 gigawatt, project sales of 1.8 gigawatt to 2.3 gigawatt, and total revenue to be in the range of $5.6 billion to $6 billion.

Our updated guidance reflects our financial improvement quarter-over-quarter as previously expected. The better Q1 profitability also reflects the sales of high gross margin projects, especially in Japan, which we have already announced.

We remain very excited about our long-term growth opportunities in the solar and energy storage. We will continue to focus on building our competitive advantages to deliver sustainable returns to our shareholders.

With that, I would now like to open the call to your questions. Operator?

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] We have the first question from the line of JB Lowe from Citi. Please go ahead.

JB Lowe — Citi — Analyst

Hey, good morning, everyone. I wanted to start on the gross margin guidance, the 16% to 18%. Shawn, as you mentioned, the first quarter will be impacted by some high margin project sales. I was just wondering if you could break down the guidance between CSI Solar and the Global Energy business, or maybe give some brackets on what we can expect on gross margin between the two segments.

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I’ll let maybe Huifeng to handle this question. Huifeng?

Huifeng Chang — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

We usually do not provide all the details, breaking down to the two businesses, but I can give you some — the high level color. The margin is higher on the Global Energy side and lower on the CSI Solar side.

JB Lowe — Citi — Analyst

Okay, fair enough. And I guess, what percentage of the cost increases that you guys have seen do you think you’re going to be able to push through higher ASPs in the first quarter? And then, just kind of the outlook — I know it’s kind of pushing into Q2, but gross margin cadence, specifically on the module side, how do you think that will progress throughout the year?

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, that’s a very good question. I would like let Yan to answer this question. Yan?

Yan Zhuang — President, CSI Solar

Yeah. Well, that’s a very good question that everybody wants to get answer of. I think for Q1 — moving from Q4 to Q1, on one hand, we still carry some of the low-price orders from last year. But on other hand, we successfully, by apparent — sorry, transparent communication with our customers and we successfully raised ASPs. And also we have some material inventory carrying from Q3 into — sorry, we have some supply chain arrangements helping us to reach some of the cost level. So, Q1, we see — we actually did okay. Not a super quarter, but we actually survived. So Q2 — moving into rest of the year, we see actually a bigger chance for improvement because we see that the stabilization of the exchange rates and we’re also seeing that the shipping cost would likely to going — to go down with the ending of the COVID impact. And also glass price is coming down. And moving into second half, we are also observing the diversification of the wafer suppliers, basically the monopoly power — pricing power is going to be weak. So overall, we also believe that there are so many others — a lot of project that has been on waiting list, people are waiting for module to come down, and now they realized that it’s not going to come down that much and they are under kind of urgent timeline to build the project. So customers actually — we start to see that customers start to accept a better module pricing. So this is the overall trend. So I think moving into rest of the year, the margin situation will continue to improve. This is our observation and our evaluation of the market situation.

JB Lowe — Citi — Analyst

Okay, great.

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, JB, this is Shawn. I would like to supplement on Yan — what Yan has said. Remember, when we provided the Q4 guidance back in September — no, back in November last year, we said, we expect the gross margin to be 8% to 10%. Our manufacturing side, the CSI Solar side, the gross margin is, indeed, more or less in this range in Q4. However, the Global Energy contributed a higher margin, therefore bringing the total up to like over 13%. Now, moving into Q1 this year, we have successfully pushed up the ASP. However, as Yan said, somehow the material cost also go up. So I believe — we believe at this moment that we’ll probably still end up — on the CSI Solar side, end up in this range. However, the high margin — the Energy business projects helped us to move the total gross margin for Q1 to the 16% to 18%. So I guess, luckily, Canadian Solar has two wins. We always have the two segments, which usually supplement each other. One will help another segment.

Now, moving into Q2, we’re are still focusing on our plan to move the manufacturing — or let’s say, move the CSI Solar gross margin above 10%, getting to a low-teen range, as we said back in November. We believe we have a fighting chance. But there are certain factors which one company can’t control, as you know. However, we are seeing that like our effort in the cost control and also in raising the price are showing — are bearing fruit so that at least we’ll be able to the — somehow we’ll be able to at least maintain our — still raise our gross margin. I guess, that partially answers the question of how much of the cost increase can be passed over to customers, or can be shared by customers.

JB Lowe — Citi — Analyst

Yeah, that was excellent. Thank you. I’ll let someone else hop on. Thanks for answering my questions.

Operator

Thank you. We have next question from the line of Philip Shen from Roth Capital. Please go ahead.

Philip Shen — Roth Capital Partners — Analyst

Hi, thanks for taking my questions. Shawn, that was a lot of good detail on the margin outlook. Thanks for sharing that. Following up on that, you talked about how the CSI Solar margins could trend in Q2. Can you talk about how you expect the Energy business margins to trend in Q2 as well?

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, the Energy — Global Energy business, that margin depends on which project we sell and in what particular quarter. It’s sometimes lumpy. And as we said, we sold some high margin projects in Q1. We don’t expect to sell the similar high margin projects in Q2. Therefore, Q2, we have to do a better job on the CSI Solar side in order to balance out and continue to improve.

Philip Shen — Roth Capital Partners — Analyst

Okay, thank you. Shifting over to storage, you guys gave a lot of good color on that business, so thanks for that. And I think, Huifeng, you talked about more revenue coming from this business in Q2. I was wondering if you could share for the year, what kind of revenue contribution the storage business might have and what the margin profile of those — of that business could be. Thanks.

Huifeng Chang — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Sure. First of all, talking about the storage business, we have two units: one, SFES [Phonetic] on the CSI Solar side, which does the system integration, etc; and the other part is solar storage — battery storage project development in Global Energy. The revenue growth for 2021 is significant for battery storage business, and they are well balanced between the two sides: the system integration side and the project development side. But because the schedule of booking revenue depends on construction milestone, and also on the Global Energy side, as I mentioned earlier, the revenue is mingled with overall solar project development business, so we cannot give you exactly the numbers and also over the quarters. But what you can do is that, you know what the battery storage projects are coming out in the US, right, and then from there, you can get an estimate of the overall size of the business that will start from 2021 and going forward in 2022.

Philip Shen — Roth Capital Partners — Analyst

Okay. Thank you.

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Now, let me [Speech Overlap] I would like Yan to further comment from the CSI Solar side.

Yan Zhuang — President, CSI Solar

So, on the system integration side, on the total solution side of the storage, I’m not going to give you the exact number because of the time schedule for the recognition over the year but — or into next year, but in terms of revenues like at the hundreds of millions of dollars level, and profitability-wise, it is significantly better than module sales. So, that is — it’s not a high capex, high depreciation mass manufacturing business, right? So it’s a solution business and there’s also the portion — the percentage of the net profit level is actually very healthy. So it’s much better than module sales. That’s the indication that I can give you.

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, Ismael, do you want to comment — provide — Ismael, do you want to provide more colors on the battery development revenue from the Global Energy side in 2021?

Ismael Guerrero Arias — Corporate Vice President and President of the Energy business

Sure. Look, in terms of projects, as Shawn mentioned before, it depends a lot on the geographies and a lot on the details of the PPAs that you signed. What I can tell you is that the projects that we have under construction right now are getting very strong demand. The profitability we expect out of them is significantly better than the average of just PV project because of the quality of the PPAs we have on them and the quality of the solution we are providing. So I think that everything that we are going to be delivering this year on storage is going to have very high margins.

Philip Shen — Roth Capital Partners — Analyst

Great. Thanks for all the color. Really appreciate that. One other quick question on the China listing status. Shawn, you give some good detail as to when it could be completed, but it was a wide range of timing. And I know, a lot depends on things out of your control. But if you were to guess, do you think it’s a healthy probability that the China listing gets done sometime in 2021? Or do you think it’s more likely in 2022?

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, Philip, it’s not a wide range. Actually, it’s a very detailed, very clear range. We just said that we expect to make the official submission in the next month, which means April. And after that, there will be usually two to three rounds, and sometimes four rounds of questions from the exchange, and just like what you have to go through with SEC review. And after that, the exchange will schedule a review meeting hearing and hearing — the exchange will approve or disapprove. Once approved, your case will be brought to the China CSI — China SEC level for registration. That’s for the whole process. So typically, that process will take the — and if you look at the past year or two years, it will take typically like five months to six months period, and then you’ll start road show. So if we are — if everything go according to that schedule, then yes, the timing will be the end of this year. And by the way, the road show timing is not like in US, like one week road show. The road show in China is rather long, takes long. And that’s why we said that we are still targeting to complete listing in this year. However, the market can change. Also the regulatory authorities may have additional questions or whatever. Therefore, it won’t be — it won’t surprise me or it won’t surprise anyone if it gets split to — sorry, get slipped to 2022.

Philip Shen — Roth Capital Partners — Analyst

Got it. Okay. Thanks again. I’ll pass it on.

Isabel Zhang — Investor Relations Manager

Hello, operator?

Operator

Thank you. We’ll have our next question from the line of Colin Rusch from Oppenheimer. Please go ahead.

Colin Rusch — Oppenheimer — Analyst

[Technical Issues] on the project side from potential projects related to hydrogen, particularly for green hydrogen, whether it’s in Europe, Latin America or North America?

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

That’s a very good question. We are very interested in hydrogen and also like green hydrogen [Technical Issues] general hydrogen. Hydrogen is another way of energy storage. At this moment, I can’t say that we have a hydrogen technology to offer yet. We are working with some partners and looking for the green hydrogen projects. And I guess, I will update you once we have a concrete project in our pipeline. At this moment, the project pipeline we mentioned, the 9-gigawatt project development pipeline of storage with the chemical energy storage, but that is a mature technology. And we have the best and the busy [Phonetic] energy — the battery energy systems, and also the system, the total integrated system solution ready to offer. We are actually in the process of delivery.

Colin Rusch — Oppenheimer — Analyst

Thanks a lot. That’s super helpful. And then, as you guys evaluate which projects to retain on the balance sheet and which geographies, can you give us a sense of what the target financial characteristics are on those projects and how you think about geographic diversity for that portfolio?

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Okay. Ismael, that question falls into your [Indecipherable].

Ismael Guerrero Arias — Corporate Vice President and President of the Energy business

Sure. Thank you, Shawn. Very good question. Thanks for making it. Look, the way we think about it is, we are thinking only on regions where we have a lot of experience and we have value to add, and we believe that the projects are going to be having more value over the time. [Indecipherable] to make 1.7 [Phonetic]. So we will probably focus on the — in Japan, we are already doing that, as you know. The next ones are going to be Brazil and Italy. If something else is coming after that, it will probably be in other regions in Europe, maybe UK, maybe a euro vehicle. And we will consider the US also, but truly depends on whether the regulatory environment in the US clears up. It looks like the changes that rumors [Phonetic] are saying might be in favor of — and make it easier for a company like us to hold some percentages. But look, it’s always based on the risk that you are running by holding the asset and our experience on the region and the return that the asset is giving you. And that’s how we are taking the decision, and also making sure that we make enough volume on the region because it’s not our intention to retain a very small volume overall. I mean, we — our intention is to retaining a small percentage of a big volume. So if we are not capable to retain a big volume on the region, we are not going to be pursuing to retain a percentage. Does this help to understand what we’re trying to do?

Colin Rusch — Oppenheimer — Analyst

Yeah. I have a couple of follow-ups, but I’ll take those offline. Thank you so much, guys. Go ahead Shawn.

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Colin. I would like to add some colors here. For individual projects, it depends on the economics and sometimes depend on how we think the projects are strategically situated in order to decide whether we want to retain some ownerships. When I say strategically, for example, there’s one project in US, it’s a pure energy storage project, very, very good project. And we actually got very good offer from an investor who want to buy 100%. But for that project, we are thinking — considering of retaining a minority ownership just because this will be the first energy storage project which we retain ownership in US. We believe that we can learn a lot through the operation and also to understand a lot better on the revenue models of an energy storage project. So yes, economic indicator is one consideration. But sometimes, the strategic importance is also a consideration. So that’s one answer to your question.

Now, second, geographically, we did say in our press release that we are launching another vehicle to hold project in Brazil. And we also mentioned Italy, which we are structuring a vehicle. So those are the areas we think that first of all, we have high-quality projects in scale. Therefore, we can structure a vehicle, rather than just sell or retain project on an individual basis. Now, Ismael — at the end of Ismael’s comment, he also mentioned that there may be some change in terms of regulation in US. Actually, he means the infrastructure bill and whether there will be some new policies in terms of ITC or different ways, for example, direct pay options for ITC. Now, if that happens, then that will fundamentally change the US market and that will also significantly increase the value of our projects in US and also make liking holding projects much, much more profitable in US. So we are just waiting, and not only waiting, but we’re analyzing the policy change there in US. But we are seeing some very interesting and very encouraging signals.

Colin Rusch — Oppenheimer — Analyst

Excellent. Thanks so much, guys.

Operator

We have the next question from the line of Brian Lee, Goldman Sachs. Please ask your question.

Brian Lee — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

Hey, guys. Thanks for taking the questions. Maybe just to start, I had a clarification question, Shawn, on the gross margins. I think maybe mixed it up or maybe I’m reading it incorrectly, but in the back of your press release, you show the CSI Solar and Global Energy gross margins for 4Q. CSI was 13.5% and Global Energy was 8.6%. And I think in your commentary to one of the earlier questions, maybe it was Phil’s, around margin cadence, you seem to suggest that margins would be about equal — about the same into Q1 for CSI and then back up to maybe double…

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Brian, yes, you have a very sharp eye. I realize that I mixed up — I actually a mixed up the two sides when I answered his question. So, yes, you are right. For the Q4, the number you should flip the two [Phonetic].

Brian Lee — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

Okay. So my question I guess, Shawn, with that in mind is, you’re basically saying CSI — I’m guessing because of input costs and poly being up 33%, CSI will be down from 4Q to 1Q. And then, you’re expecting from 1Q to 2Q, it improves and then it improves back to like 10%. And then, when we get back to sort of Q4 levels, you just put up 13.5% in CSI Solar for 4Q. You’re implying that you’ll be back to 10% by 2Q. When do we get back to just 4Q levels? Is that end of the year? Like you’ll be back to 13%, 14% by the end of 2021 in CSI?

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Our target is to bring it back to low-teen in the second half of the year, and hopefully in Q3. And for Q4, we are still targeting to bring the CSI Solar gross margin to the mid-teen level. There are some headwinds, as Yan mentioned. However, there are also some tailwinds. For example, we have gone through the low-price contracts which we signed mid of last year. We have gone through all those contract obligations in Q1. We lost money in some contracts, but we still decided to meet all contract obligations. So from Q2 side [Phonetic], we are signing fresh contracts. So there are some tailwinds as well. So I believe, Yan’s team will do a good job to fight with headwinds with our efforts.

Brian Lee — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

Okay. Thank you. That’s super helpful clarification. I think it just helps everyone for the modeling purposes between the two segments, especially since there’s so much focus on the module margin cadence here. Okay. Second question I had was on — if I look at the Global Energy business, again, you did 1.4 gigawatt of project sales in 2020. That’s the actual. And then, you did a little over $700 million of net revenue in the Global Energy segment under the new reporting. So should we expect a similar ratio, I guess, like $0.50 a watt implied on the 1.8 gigawatts to 2.3 gigawatts for project sales in the 2021 outlook?

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

That’s somehow — it depends on what is NTP sales or COD sales. So it’s a little bit complicated. But our IR team can, I guess, provide you more data for the modeling purpose maybe after the call.

Huifeng Chang — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Hi, Brian. This is Huifeng. You mentioned about the gross margin for Global Energy business in Q4 we reported in the press release. I’d like to the highlight, that gross margin number was relatively low as the result of selling of two or three large solar projects. And then, we count all the revenue into — the total value of the project into the revenue. And that drove down the gross margin number significantly. So — and again, that is the reason why we hesitate to give the gross margin guidance because sometimes it depends on the form of the project sales, is that the COD or NTP. And then, it can be very choppy and others may be confused. So take that into your consideration. Please do not extrapolate that gross margin for Global Energy group in Q4 into 2021, especially for Q1. Q1, as we announced, the product sales happened in Japan, and the margin historically has been very high. Thank you.

Brian Lee — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

Okay. Yeah, the Japan stuff, I know, can come in at a very high gross margin. Huifeng, maybe last one for me. I’ll pass it on. If you can provide — and I know, we can take this offline as well. But if you can provide the actual dollar revenue target or range that’s implied by the 1.8 gigawatts to 2.3 gigawatts of project sales for 2021? Can you at least give us some sense of cadence? Is it 40% first half revenue for Global Energy and 60% in the back half? Or is it more balanced or more skewed? Just any sense of how much of the revenue in Global Energy will show up earlier in the year versus later in the year?

Huifeng Chang — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

I guess, Brian, the best way is to have IR team to help you on the modeling and rather than just giving rough numbers in this call.

Brian Lee — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

All right, fair enough. I’ll take it offline. Thanks guys.

Huifeng Chang — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Operator

We have the next question from the line of Mark Strouse from J.P. Morgan. Please ask your question.

Mark Strouse — J.P. Morgan — Analyst

Yeah, thank you very much for taking my questions. Shawn, I’m just curious for your high-level views on some of the recent headlines that have come out about potential forced labor being used for silicon production in Xinjiang province. Are you able to quantify what percentage of your business might use associated products? And maybe it’s a bit of hypothetical at this point, but to the extent that there are any kind of international government restrictions on imports of silicon from that province, what are kind of the steps that that you can take to mitigate them, if needed?

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, Mark, this is a very hypothetical question. And however, I can give you concrete answers. We — Canadian Solar never tolerates forced labor, and we are not aware of any forced labor issue in our company or within our suppliers. And also, based on the information we have, we don’t believe forced labor exists in our company, our — in our supplier. So, that will be my answer to your question. Now, if some regulations or new laws come up from certain countries, we’ll study how to comply with the local regulation and local laws, when that comes.

Huifeng Chang — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Hi, this is Huifeng. Let me also add that we do not have any manufacturing facility in Xinjiang. We only have one employee working in Xinjiang, who is the manager at our solar power plant, and together with six other employees from a subcontractor. All of them are Han Chinese. And also for polysilicon, we believe polysilicon facility is full of high-risk chemicals, high pressure cylinders, extremely sensitive to safety. So we don’t think it makes sense to have any forced labor in those facilities. And we haven’t seen any evidence of forced labor being used at a polysilicon facility. Of course, we are aware of the political climate. If some regulation in place, and we will operate our business in compliance. Thank you.

Mark Strouse — J.P. Morgan — Analyst

Okay, that makes sense. That’s good to hear. Thank you very much.

Operator

This time, there are no further questions on the telephone line. I’d like to hand the call back to the speakers.

Shawn Qu — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, thank you for joining us today. And also, thanks for your continued support. If you have any questions or would like to set up a call, please contact our Investor Relations team. We hope you and your family stay safe and healthy, which is very important. And take care, and have a nice day.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

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