Meyer Burger to lay off 100 workers and relocate most of PV business to Asia

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Swiss PV production equipment supplier Meyer Burger Technology AG today published details of a new transformation program.

The strategy includes structural changes aimed at being located nearer its customers, optimizing manufacturing and fixed costs, and improving resilience in a volatile solar market. Behind the words lie measures that will reduce and relocate jobs.

According to Meyer Burger, the laying-off of another 100 full-time jobs in Switzerland is part of the program, on top of a previously announced workforce reduction at the company’s Thun site.

The strategy will affect around 9% of the remaining 1,100-strong Meyer Burger workforce after the previous round of redundancies. As part of the transformation process, adjustments are also planned at Executive Board and Board of Director level, the company added.

Twin focus on Germany and China

With the PV manufacturing industry predominantly located in Asia, Meyer Burger will relocate a significant portion of its worldwide sales and service functions for standard solar products to Asia, with a focus primarily on China. The company also says it is examining outsourcing and cooperation partner models.

The Swiss technology group says it wants to bring the business closer to customers to better address local conditions while reducing production costs and optimizing margins.

As part of a further adjustment of the PV business, Meyer Burger wants to concentrate activities mainly at two locations: Hohenstein-Ernstthal in Germany and Wuxi-Shanghai, in China.

The production equipment manufacturer says it also intends to further optimize its technology, with a planned focus on heterojunction cell manufacture, Smart Wire Connection Technology (SWCT) and promising next generation cell and module technologies, such as tandem cells that use different types of stacked cells. The company says it has already seen increased customer interest in such technologies.

Plan follows return to profitability

“In particular, enquiries from prospects outside of China have gained momentum. However, as the market environment remains uncertain, the timing of order entries continues to be difficult to predict”, said Meyer Burger in its statement.

The transformation process is planned to be complete by 2021, at which point the company expects a positive impact on its EBITDA of around CHF25 million ($25.3m) annually. Previously, Meyer Burger expected one-off cash outflows of around CHF11m for personnel and product transfers as well as personnel expenses, of which some CHF4m were included on this year’s balance sheet. Around three-quarters of the measures are expected to be implemented by the end of next year.

Meyer Burger CEO Hans Brändle emphasized the company had successfully returned to profitability in the first half of this year.

“However the same period also showed substantial market volatility in terms of customer demand for our photovoltaic products and solutions,” he added. “We have initiated an ambitious transformation program that will enable Meyer Burger to become leaner and more focused.”