SMA announces both dividend and layoffs


However, at the general meeting of shareholders on Thursday the spokesperson for the management board preferred to not make any statements with regard to the actual scope at this point in time.

At the general meeting for the financial year, the shareholders of SMA Solar Technology AG approved a dividend of €0.60 per share for the financial year just elapsed. "SMA maintains its long-term dividend policy, even during difficult periods. With a payment ratio of 27.7% based on the consolidated surplus, we are well within our targeted shareholder participation of 20% to 40%. The overwhelming share of any generated results will remain in the company," explained Pierre-Pascal Urbon, spokesman for the management board at SMA. A "not insignificant" amount of this figure is to be invested in research and development.

The management board at SMA expects that there will be moderate growth on photovoltaic markets worldwide in 2013. This forecast is based on substantial cuts in subsidies on the European markets and various assumptions with regard to the market trend in individual regions, according to a publication prepared for the general meeting of shareholders. Therefore, a decline in sales ranging from €0.9 to €1.3 billion is expected – thus cutting the figure for 2010 in half.

In the financial year just elapsed SMA sales still amounted to €1.5 billion with a profit of €172 million. And the SMA management board is still unable to rule out a loss for the current year. On the contrary, a breakeven result may be expected at best.

On May 15, SMA announced it is considering further layoffs to cut 1,000 jobs. However, at the general meeting of shareholders Urbon stated that despite intensified internationalization, there were no plans to relocate the company’s production facilities from Germany abroad. Nevertheless, additional manufacturing facilities for photovoltaic inverters are to be developed in South Africa, while sales and service structures are to be further advanced abroad.

The management spokesman emphasized that plans are to strengthen the respective development departments as well. Currently more than 1,000 SMA staff are employed in this segment. All in all the photovoltaic company plans to invest €120 million in research and development this year.

Cost-cutting measures

At the same time, SMA is working on lowering its manufacturing costs through increased productivity, Urbon went on to say. Altogether the company has a set of 130 measures that presumably will only have an impact on its result toward the end of the year.

In addition, Urbon provided more detail with regard to additionally required adjustments in personnel. Layoffs in Germany and at its European companies abroad have proven to be unavoidable in light of the company’s decline in sales. Only the development departments are expected to be excluded, Urbon continued.

Not only temporary employees, but also permanently employed staff will be affected by the cuts. In the weeks to come there will be further talks with the works council and IG Metall, the industrial union of metalworkers. At the moment "no concrete statements can be made with regard to the scope of the required personnel adjustments," commented Urbon.

Translated by Alan Faulcon; edited by Vera von Kreutzbruck.