Meyer Burger abandons plan to relocate operations to China

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From pv magazine Germany.

Swiss solar equipment maker Meyer Burger has confirmed it has rowed back on a ‘transformation plan’ for the business – announced in October – which would have involved further redundancies in Switzerland and an increased focus on China.

Presenting a set of first-half results undermined by weak demand, Meyer Burger CEO Hans Brändle announced: “The unattractive margins in the standard PV business prompted us to revise the originally-planned relocation of parts of our production to China and adjust our sales focus accordingly,” said Brändle.

That marks a u-turn from plans to switch significant parts of the company’s global sales and service functions from its Thun headquarters to Wuxi-Shanghai, and signals Meyer’s intent to focus its PV business on Europe as a long-mooted solar renaissance starts to flower.

The company did get a shot in the arm, however, on the day it confirmed first-half reverses, by signing a letter of intent with Norwegian panelmaker REC Solar over a strategic collaboration based on the latter’s desire to expand its production capacity by several gigawatts.

Ambitious plans

REC said it intends to use Meyer Burger equipment to increase output of heterojunction (HJT) and SmartWire modules from its current 600 MW capability. “Cooperation with a potential strategic downstream partner” is also planned, according to the two companies.

Brändle said: “The cooperation with REC has led to a quantum leap in the production of HJT/SmartWire solar modules” and added, a partnership with U.K.-based perovskite company Oxford PV enables the Swiss group “to further develop and secure technology leadership beyond HJT”.

The business model agreed by Meyer Burger with REC is based on the Norwegian company’s willingness to pay its partner in return for exclusivity protection for certain HJT and SmartWire interconnect technologies.

The arrangement will enable Meyer Burger to capitalize on the economic value of its high-efficiency module production technology, protect its intellectual property and reduce the standardization risk it has experienced in major markets in the past. A final agreement on profit sharing and exclusivity will be drawn up in the coming months and approved by the boards of both companies.

In the red

The announcement came as Meyer Burger revealed first-half net profits slumped to CHF1.8 million (€1.6 million), down from CHF8.3 million a year earlier. Net sales fell to CHF123 million from CHF232 million in the first six months of last year. That meant a loss of CHF21 million before interest and tax, down from a CHF15 million profit, year on year. Incoming orders in the first half amounted to CHF94 million, down from CHF138 million.

“In the context of the market downturn, we have focused on implementing our strategic priorities: the evolution of our leading heterojunction and SmartWire cell connection technologies,” said Brändle.

The first HJT production line will start series production shortly.