Isofotón restructuring could cost 360 jobs

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Isofotón has announced it will commence restructuring proceedings at the Mercantile Court of Málaga on 4 June.

The Spanish PV equipment manufacturer attributes its current financial situation to demands made by the Spanish government to return subsidies received by Isofotón’s former owners, the refusal of refinancing from banks and also Hemlock Semiconductor suing Isofotón for US$96 million.

Isofotón said 360 employees from the Malaga office would be dismissed as part of its restructuring plans. Gemma Martín, director of communications and institutional relations at Isofotón refused to comment on when the contracts would be terminated.

Martín told PV-Tech the nail in the coffin was Hemlock’s lawsuit. She said a 10-year contract was signed by Global Sun and Hemlock, with Isofotón acting as guarantor. When Global Sun was unable to keep up payments, Isofotón was required to pay one third of the total amount owed.

Martín also clarified that the government subsidies received by Isofotón were procured by the company’s previous owners. Current owners Affirma bought majority ownership of the group in June 2010. “This was before the current owners acquired Isofotón. For some reason we have been requested to return the money but that was from the past – it’s not our responsibility.”

Martín said: “I know the big chunk of subsidies was because they [government] had to prove some of the accounts were not accurate but they were accounts from the past.”

According to Spanish publication El Mundo, the government’s complaint states Isofotón may not have used the subsidies for the reasons they were granted.

Martín refused to comment on the amount of money the government has asked the company to pay.

However, El Mundo claimed Isofotón received €29 billion (US$38 million) of public financing and €30 million private financing.

Tomás Díaz, communications director for the Spanish solar industry told PV-Tech Isofotón's demise was another example of the government's lack of support for the Spanish solar market: “Isofotón is the last Spanish manufacturer that has announced to be in serious problems, like the rest of the Spanish manufacturers. If the Spanish panel industry was around 30 companies three years ago, 90% are in bankruptcy or have already closed. The moratoria [on the feed-in tariff] in Spain have had a huge impact on the Spanish PV sector.”

Nevertheless, Martín remains confident of Isofotón’s success: “We have talked to some of the creditors and they are pretty optimistic they want to arrive to an agreement; we remain cautiously optimistic that we will emerge from this restructuring as a stronger and leaner company.”

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