Meyer Burger orders surge 40%, fails to avoid 2015 loss

With the PV equipment supply market rapidly improving, strong demand for its PERC solution and having achieved cost reductions, Meyer Burger enjoyed a much improved 2015. However, the company was not able to return its financials back to black for the year, blaming previously announced project delays as having delayed expected revenues totaling around CHF40 million ($41.2 million). These revenues will be realized in 2016.

Meyer Burger booked revenues of CHF323.6 million ($333.25 million) in 2015, up 8.3% YoY. New bookings for the year came in at CHF 418.9 million ($431.4 million), up slightly over 40% YoY.

Having achieved personnel costs reductions of CHG25.4 million ($26.2 million), or 14%, in 2015, Meyer Burger now expects to hit break even with revenues of CHF400 million ($412 million). Given this, it appears likely that 2016 will see Meyer Burger return to modest profit – if it is able to maintain order momentum. The Swiss company began 2016 with an order backlog of CHF257.5 million ($265.2 million) – a 35.5% YoY increase.

Meyer Burger’s long-running dispute with U.S. equipment supplier GT Advanced Technologies, which itself only emerged from bankruptcy very recently, was resolved in 2015. The dispute was over the supply of sapphire glass equipment that Meyer Burger had shipped to the U.S. firm. Meyer Burger accepted a by-proxy settlement of $13.9 million from GTAT, while it was under Chapter 11, in 2015.

Order flows

Meyer Burger booked solar segment orders worth CHF142 million ($146 million) in 2015, up around 70% YoY. The company reported orders for the MB PERC technology, called MAiA 2.1, which was designed and is produced by its German subsidiary Roth & Rau. Heterojunction (HJT) PV cell production equipment, along with wafer and module measurement technology sales were also booked in 2015.

Due to considerable demand for its MAiA 2.1 PERC upgrade, there were reports in 2015 that Meyer Burger was struggling to keep up with the timely supply of the tool, resulting in long lead times. No mention of this was made in Meyer Burger’s 2015 financial statement, although it may be behind some of the delayed revenues for the year.

Looking further forward, Meyer Burger aims to win further upgrade business as the PV business continues its path towards high-efficiency cell concepts, like PERC and HJT, and from slurry based crystalline silicon wafering to diamond wire cutting.

Meyer Burgers operating margin came in at 47.7% in 2015, up 5.4 percentage points. The company says this meets its expectations.

In terms of cost reductions, Meyer Burger reported that restructuring at its Colorado Springs Diamond Materials activities led to cost reductions of $6 million at the site. One-off losses from the sale of Roth & Rau subsidiaries of CHF6.3 million ($6.5 million) were booked for the year. Meyer Burger notes in its financial statement that this means its operating costs were reduced by around 15% last year.

Assets and cash

Meyer Burger finished 2015 with CHF572.3 million ($589.4 million) in total assets, down from CHF755.9 million ($778.4 million) the previous year. The company attributes this to decreases in cash reserves, property, plant and equipment depreciation and amortization, along with one-time impairments. Cash stood at CHF101.5 million ($104.5 million) and inventories of CHF117.8 million ($121.3 million) by 2015’s close. 2015 liabilities stood at CHF397.3 million ($409.15 million).

The Swiss National Bank’s decision to end the Swiss Franc/Euro minimum exchange rate in 2015, cost the company some CHF25.5 million ($26.26 million), Meyer Burger reports.

Meyer Burger has set as a "top priority" return to EBITA break-even status in 2016. It describes its previously stated 2020/21 goal of sales totaling CHF1.3 billion ($1.34 billion), with an EBITA margin of between 13% and 15% as being "quite ambitious from the present point of view."