Amtech buys BTU in US$32.5 million all stock transaction

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Consolidation in the PV manufacturing equipment sector has continued with Amtech Systems acquiring BTU International in an all stock transaction valuing BTU at US$32.5 million. 

Both companies have been loss making through the longest downturn in capital expenditure in the PV industry that has almost lasted three years. 

J.S. Whang, executive chairman of Amtech said: “The addition of BTU supports our business model of growth through strategic acquisition and continuous innovation. This acquisition further advances our strategy to expand our technology portfolio in adjacent markets and creates a strong platform to drive the growth of our solar business. With the addition of BTU, Amtech will have a more diversified and profitable revenue base, allowing us to better scale production and distribution of our solar technology to meet accelerating demand for next-generation technology solutions.” 

Diversification maybe the obvious driver, following moves in previous years by the likes of Manz, Meyer Burger and GT Advanced Technology to spread the risk to earnings of a volatile PV industry but the synergies of the merger also represent operational savings to the tune of around US$4million to US$5 million in the first 12 months. Amtech noted that it expected the transaction to be accretive to fiscal year 2015 non-GAAP EPS. 

However, Finlay Colville, vice president of NPD Solarbuzz told PV Tech that the deal can be seen as a positive.

“BTU has a long track record in supplying firing furnaces at the back end of cell lines, mostly with lower tier producers in Asia today. Amtech is now in a position to offer a multiple furnace solution for cell lines that includes diffusion and firing tools,” noted Colville.

“Such a move is likely to be seen as broadly negative to Centrotherm that was previously Amtech's main competitor for diffusion furnaces,” added Colville. “Centrotherm had been the leading supplier of diffusion and firing furnace combinations, something that Amtech can now offer with BTU's firing tool addition.”

The acquisition was touted in a conference call with both companies to provide greater scale and operational efficiencies in advance of the next wave of technology and capacity buys by PV manufacturers with the aim of being a profitable business.

Previously during c-Si expansion phases, tier one cell makers typically used either Despatch or Centrotherm for firing equipment, with BTU having minimal tier one exposure, according to NPD Solarbuzz.

However, Colville noted that with Amtech having a strong tier one share of diffusion furnace adoption in China and Taiwan, the scope for Amtech to increase its served market opportunity during the next phase of solar cell capacity additions represented a key outcome of the acquisition. 

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