BTU experiences weak Q3 due to "slim" solar orders; announces layoffs

03. November 2011 | Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By:  Becky Stuart

BTU International Inc. which, among other products, produces thermal processing equipment for solar cells, has experienced a weak third quarter Q3 2011. The results were said to have been primarily affected by the weak solar market. It has also announced staff layoffs.

BTU screenshot

BTU is confident that solar is a growth industry.

The company, which is headquartered in North Billerica, Massachusetts, and has offices in Shanghai, China and Surrey, England, said that it has laid off both full time and contract employees in the U.S. since the end of the June quarter, due to the slow solar business, which has seen supply outstripping demand.

While the company would not disclose exact figures, a spokesperson did tell pv magazine that around 40 employees have been affected. They declined to say how many of these were permanent workers and how many were contract though.

Paul J. van der Wansem, BTU chairman and CEO, commented during a sales and earnings conference call that the company is maintaining an optimistic view of the solar industry, backed both by recent bookings and the expansion of the solar industry, specifically in China. However, he added, "As we already witnessed in the second quarter, the amount of solar cell installations could not keep up with the rapid growth in supply.

"The amount of capacity expansion in the pipeline will take some time to be observed. As expected, our third quarter saw a decline in revenue from the previous quarters, and we have taken measures to reduce expenses and lower our breakeven level."

He did say though, that overall the company’s solar customer base expanded, due to the delivery of an anneal furnace to a large, unnamed Asian customer

In the coffers

In Q3 2011, BTU saw net sales of USD $16.9 million, down from $19 million in Q2 2011 and Q3 2010. Overall, for the first nine months of the year, they rose from  $54.2 million in 2010 to $61.3 million in 2011.

Q3 2011 experienced a net loss, which included a restructuring charge of $352,000, of $2 million. This, says the company, compares to "basically breakeven" in both Q2 2011 and Q3 2010. The first nine months of the year also saw a net loss, of $0.2 million in comparison to the $0.1 million seen in the first nine months of 2010.

In the first half of 2011, alternative energies comprised around 50 percent of BTU’s business, said Wansem. This dropped to around 40 percent in the second half, due to the solar market slowdown.

While he says the solar market is "significantly" down, he "firmly believes" that it is a growth industry and that BTU can play a significant role as an innovator. For the time being, he said that the company’s other business activities will provide "some cushion" in the down period.


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