SolarMax to file for insolvency

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Swiss inverter manufacturer SolarMax will see its parent company, Sputnik Engineering, file for insolvency this week as attempts to salvage the company have failed.

An internal memo sent to all SolarMax employees today stated: “The employees have been informed this morning and will stop working today until further notice.”

Having struggled for profitability over the past few years, SolarMax has joined the growing list of European inverter suppliers to file for insolvency or exit the market.

From the position of fifth-largest inverter supplier in the world as recently as 2008, recent contractions in the European market have dramatically slashed SolarMax’s bottom line, while attempts at internationalization – chiefly into the U.S. market – have failed.

Cormac Gilligan, senior solar analyst at IHS, said that the company’s attempts to focus on the string inverter market in the wake of Europe’s declining utility scale sector had also proven difficult.

“SolarMax’s market share has declined from over 4% in 2008 to less than 1% in 2013,” said Gilligan. “It was largely a victim of a severe decline in the European PV inverter market, which has fallen from $5.5 billion in 2010 to $1.9 billion in 2013.” Gilligan added that a further 25% decrease is forecast for 2014.”

Efforts by SolarMax to internationalize its business by entering into the U.S. in 2013 have proven fruitless, Gilligan added, particularly in the face of tough local competition from Advanced Energy and Solectria.

IHS has predicted that price pressure in Europe will continue over the next five years, with average annual declines in the region of 5-10%. “The exit of SolarMax,” Gilligan concluded, “will provide only limited relief to the incredibly tough competitive environment that suppliers focused on Europe continue to face.”