Customer turns owner: QSTec revealed as centrotherm investor

State-backed Qatar Solar Technologies has made a second major investment in formerly struggling German PV firms, with its latest move seeing it become a major investment in upstream provider centrotherm. QSTec came forward today as the previously unnamed investor in Solarpark Blautal, which now controls 80% of centrotherm shares.

QSTec has been a major centrotherm customer in recent years, with the German company supplying equipment for the QSTec polysilicon production project in Ras Laffan Industrial City. The polysilicon facility was initially planned to have a capacity of 8,000MT.

"With our interest in centrotherm, QSTec expands along the solar value chain," said QSTec chaiman and CEO Khalid Al Hajri said in a statement. "Our aim is to develop new solar solutions and other areas beyond PV that will positively affect the lives of millions of people across the world."

QSTec owns a 29% stake in SolarWorld. Just how much of the Solarpark Blautal body that QSTec controls has not been revealed. QSTec itself is a joint venture in which the Qatar Foundation owns 70%.

"With Qatar Solar Technologies as a partner we have gained an international strategic partner for centrotherm," added Robert M- Hartung. "Together we want to steer centrotherm in the future."

The move by QSTec sees the company acquire assets in both PV manufacturing and equipment supply, along with its polysilicon facility in Qatar.

Solar Media’s Finlay Colville told pv magazine that the sale is "great news for centrotherm at a time when equipment order intake is still very much in start-stop mode for European equipment suppliers."

"Since centrotherm went through its insolvency proceedings, its revenues have remained relatively healthy compared to most other equipment suppliers during the last couple of year," Colville added. "The main reason for this appears to be stage quarterly payments from Qatar for the delivery of CVD reactors to the initial polysilicon buildout in Qatar. With centrotherm being so heavily dependent on one customer and that customer having ambitious long term plans, it is not surprising that QSTec would make an investment into one of its key equipment suppliers.

"QSTec would definitely not want to see one of its key suppliers exiting from the industry, having being critical to the initial polysiilcon plant build out," added Colville, who is the head of market intelligence for Solar Media.

In a statement announcing the QSTec stake, centrotherm’s Robert M. Hartung added: "With Qatar Solar Technologies as a partner we have gained an international strategic partner for centrotherm. Together we want to steer centrotherm in the future."

"Going forward, it could potentially be the launch pad for centrotherm to be supplying cell and module equipment at the turnkey level,” said Colville. "This is the most likely route for QSTec to expand downstream from poly down to wafer, cell and module manufacturing with a European supplier that can supply at the turnkey level."

Tobias Wahl, CEO of Sol Futura said in a statement: "I am delighted that we have managed to find a financially strong partner for the company, the long-term has strategic interests and ensures the financing of the company."

Sol Futura was formed in 2013 as a result of a debt-equity swap deal. The deal saw Sol Futura controlling 70% of centrotherm’s shares, effectively bringing to an end centrotherm’s insolvency.