Meyer Burger cites turning point in PV equipment orders

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Major equipment supplier to the PV industry, Meyer Burger has reported a better than expected order intake in the last six-weeks, citing it as a “turning point in customer behaviour.”

The company reported first-half 2013 new orders of CHF 82.5 million, while over CHF 40 million of the new orders had only been secured since the beginning of July, 2013.

Meyer Burger said that it expected customers to start making new capital investments in wafer, cell and module manufacturing lines during the second half of 2013 and continuing to develop in 2014. As a result, Meyer Burger expects increasing levels of orders and sales.

Few PV equipment suppliers have received any new orders in 2013 as overcapacity throughout the supply chain has squashed new capital investment in both technology upgrades and capacity expansions.

A range of equipment suppliers have noted in quarterly financial statements that they did not expect capital spending to pick-up until at least the middle of 2014.

What is not separating Meyer Burger from other equipment suppliers is the reporting of further losses for the first-half of the year. The company reported a net loss of CHF 81.9 million on the back of sales of CHF 90.4 million, characterised by the company as “a difficult market environment in the solar industry.”

Meyer Burger reported an order backlog at the end of the first-half of the year of CHF 376.5 million, compared to CHF 405.5 million in the same period a year ago.

However, Finlay Colville, senior analyst and VP of NPD Solarbuzz told PV Tech, “Other leading PV equipment suppliers having written off backlogs that dated back to 2011 and 2012, based upon reassessment of risk associated with shipment to customers that already had excess capacity. In this respect, Meyer Burger’s backlog still appears at odds with the rest of the PV equipment supply-chain.”

Meyer Burger also noted that it expected to sign order contracts for its heterojunction solar cell processing equipment as well as further orders for its ‘SmartWire’ connection technology that would include the purchase of integrated production lines.

The company recently received an order for diamond wire wafering equipment, the first technology order in 2-years.

According to Colville, “One of the biggest challenges facing companies trying to introduce new tool types is that the leading module suppliers have prioritized multi c-Si modules. Many of the new processes [from diamond wire saws to selective emitters] only give an advantage for mono [crystalline], not multi [crystalline wafers].

“It is far too early to say there are green shoots for PV CapEx,” added Colville. “There is a scattering of one-off orders that are certainly not indicative of any trend. A more worrying aspect is that there is still 12GW of virtual c-Si capacity in China that the industry leaders are falling back on to increase shipments. This is currently the biggest issue impacting PV equipment suppliers: market leaders can increase shipments without adding any new capacity.

Ultimately, PV equipment suppliers are still suffering for the sheer level of equipment they shipped to the PV industry in 2011 and 2012 that was surplus to requirements. Most of this equipment is still market competitive with the PV industry largely focused on increasing the efficiency and lowering the cost of standard p-type c-Si production,” Colville said.

The company also reported that the remaining half of 2013 would remain challenging and as a result has dropped previous guidance of CHF 400 million in sales for the full-year but did not provide a new forecast.

Meyer Burger has been restructuring operations as market conditions remained challenging, ending the first six-months of the year with a 16% reduction in its workforce from the end of 2012. 

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