The decision is said to represent a strategic move for the Group, which is looking to develop its other, more profitable businesses further, and comes after "significant" operational and cost structure improvements. The sale is, however, subject to merger control approvals, and is expected to take several months to conclude.
"This divestment is an important part of our strategy to streamline and balance the Group portfolio. TEL is an ideal strategic buyer for our solar business. Its main operations are close to the predominantly Asian customer base and having had a partnership with them for three years, they know our solar segment well," commented Michael Buscher, CEO of Oerlikon Group.
He continued, "The sale will give us the opportunity to focus on our high performing businesses, where we have critical mass, strong market positions and the potential to grow even further with increased profitability. We are convinced that this step is also the best solution for our employees as TEL is a strategic buyer aiming to develop a core solar business."
Oerlikon Solar produces equipment and turnkey manufacturing lines for the manufacture of thin film silicon photovoltaic modules. Last December, it announced that it had released a new production line, which allowed its modules to be produced at around US$0.50 or 0.35 per Watt peak (/Wp) and reduced capital expenditure by 20 percent. Meanwhile, in July 2012, it said it had cut customers’ costs to "well under" US$1 per watt, down from around $1.30/Wp in 2009, and $1.50/Wp in 2008.
Despite these successes, due to the unsettled market conditions in 2011, which saw massive overcapacities and reduced demand, Oerlikon suffered significant losses for the year. "Although Oerlikon Solar received its first order from Asia for a complete 120 megawatt ThinFab production line, 2011 order intake was 12 percent lower at CHF 202 million [around US$220 million; 167.5 million] (2010: CHF 230 million), with order backlog decreasing to CHF 130 million," said the company in a statement released.
Oerlikon Solar is headquartered in Trübbach, Switzerland, and employs 675 people in eight locations worldwide. No one could be immediately reached for further comment.