Applied Materials buys HCT Shaping Systems for US$475 million

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Continuing its strategic focus on the solar cell manufacturing market, Applied Materials has made another major acquisition in the solar equipment sector with the purchase of Switzerland-based HCT Shaping Systems SA, the largest specialist in wafer sawing tools for both solar and semiconductor wafer markets.

Applied will pay approximately CHF 583 million (or approximately US$475 million at the current exchange rate) in cash for all of the outstanding shares of HCT, which is a privately held company.

“This acquisition aligns well with our overall strategy to drive down the cost-per-watt of solar power for c-Si and thin film applications,” said Mike Splinter, President and CEO of Applied Materials. “HCT will significantly expand our opportunities in the c-Si PV technology sector, which currently comprises 90% of solar panel production. By combining HCT’s precision wafering systems with Applied’s strong manufacturing technology and global support infrastructure, we believe we can take solar wafer manufacturing to the next level of production efficiency.”

“Our overall solar strategy is to reduce cost-per-watt, and for c-Si, the ‘grams of silicon-per-watt’ is key to this equation,” commented Dr. Mark Pinto, senior Vice President and General Manager of Applied’s New Business and New Products Group. “HCT’s technology and roadmap to reduce wafer thickness are critical to improving material utilization and will complement our high throughput c-Si ATON deposition system, enabling customers to scale up production and reduce cost.”

HCT, which has been in business for over 20 years, has in recent times experienced rapid growth due to the growing solar market. The company saw sales double in 2005 compared to 2004 with sales tripling in 2006 over the previous year’s record sales growth.

The latest acquisition by Applied Materials follows on from the major acquisition of Applied Films almost a year ago for US$464 million.

Taking into account other investments and acquisitions, Applied Materials has spent in the region of US$1.0 billion dollars in the last 12 months on solar-related business investments.

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