AE looks at departure from inverter business

On December 22nd, American power and control technology company Advanced Energy (AE) announced that it has begun exploring strategic alternatives for its solar inverter business, including sale, joint venture, partnership and licensing. The company also mentioned “additional product line optimization and rationalization” as an option, and is in the process of retiring legacy inverter products.

AE has been struggling for the last few years with profitability, during which it has made several big moves to improve its strategic position. This included moving key parts of its manufacturing to China, acquiring German inverter maker REFUsol and its three-phase inverter line, and then transitioning away from its central inverters towards the three-phase products.

It’s a tough time to be a Western inverter maker. The center of the global solar market has moved to Asia with China and Japan as the largest markets, and these have been difficult to enter.

As a result, European and U.S. inverter makers have been consistently losing market share to rising Asian companies. Accompanying this are crushing declines in prices and margins, which have particularly affected makers of inverters for utility-scale projects.

AE notes that it will continue to offer its inverter products and service while making other plans for the business, and is not updating its guidance for the fourth quarter of 2014. As the result of its strategic review and retirement of legacy inverter products, the company expects to record a non-cash inventory charge of US$10-14 million during the quarter.