INTERVIEW - Suntech sees solar industry back in black in H2

BOAO, China (Reuters) - China's Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd said on Tuesday that it expects to return to profit, along with the entire industry, in the fourth quarter as prices stabilise on tighter inventories and improving demand.

Suntech forecast its sales in the United States to grow a strong 40 percent this year, expecting little impact from a preliminary U.S. ruling on countervailing duties of less than 5 percent and possible higher anti-dumping duties later this year.

The world's largest photovoltaic solar module maker would be able to skirt around the U.S. duties by shipping its products from other manufacturing bases outside of China, Chairman and Chief Executive Zhengrong Shi told Reuters in an interview.

"It'll be tough for the industry to return to profit in the first half because of falling prices and margins, while operational costs haven't been dropping fast enough," said Shi, known in the solar industry as China's sun king, during the 2012 Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan.

Global solar companies, such as Suntech, First Solar Inc , Trina Solar Ltd and Canadian Solar Inc all reported losses for 2011 due to aggressive pricing and a supply glut eroding margins.

Suntech's New York-listed shares have risen by a third since the beginning of the year, although industry difficulties had caused its stock to plummet more than 70 percent in 2011.

(Reporting by Li Ran and Lee Chyen Yee; Editing by Chris Lewis)