* Impact from U.S. import tariffs to be small
* America region to grow 18 pct a year until 2020
* SMA Solar shares reach 11-week high (Adds context on U.S. market, shares milestone)
FRANKFURT, Jan 26 (Reuters) - SMA Solar, Germany’s largest solar group, expects the industry to take a just a small hit from import tariffs imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump this week, sending its shares to an 11-week high.
Trump on Monday approved a 30 percent tariff on solar cell and module imports, dropping to 15 percent within four years. Up to 2.5 gigawatts of unassembled solar cells can be imported tariff-free in each year.
Although the move was intended to help American manufacturers, some in the sector said it could slow U.S. investment in solar power and cost thousands of U.S. jobs.
However, SMA Solar, the world’s largest maker of solar inverters, said it expected the impact to be small, forecasting industry growth in the Americas region would average about 18 percent per year until 2020, more than the 10 percent expected globally.
An inverter converts the output of a panel into current that can be fed into a commercial electrical grid.
“SMA’s market outlook includes a slightly negative impact from the import tariff,” SMA said on slides published during its capital market day, giving no further details on the impact.
The U.S. government argued that its domestic manufacturers could not compete with what it said were artificially lower-priced Asian solar panels.
Shares in SMA Solar, which generated 46 percent of its sales in the Americas in 2016, were up 4 percent by 1000 GMT, having touched their highest level since Nov. 8. They had slipped after news of the tariff plan this week.
The company also this week reported preliminary 2017 results and predicted growing sales this year. (Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Tom Sims and Keith Weir)