Meyer Burger sales fall 51%; new order intake down 73%

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Meyer Burger Group net sales in 2012 fell 51% to CHF645.2 million (US$684 million) on the back of overcapacity across its fields served in the PV industry.

The company has posted a net loss of CHF115.9 million (US$123 million) and plans to issue new shares to raise CHF150 million to strengthen its liquidity position on the back of further declines in sales expected in 2013, due to an approximately 73% decline in new order intake in 2012 compared to 2011.

2012 sales and new orders

Meyer Burger reported a 2012 new order intake of CHF223.4 million (US$236 million), down from CHF876.8 million in 2011. The order backlog at the end of 2012 stood at CHF 405.5 million, down from CHF 909.9 million in the same period a year ago.

On a regional basis, 81% of 2012 net came from Asia, primarily China, according to the company. A single China-based customer accounted for 22.6% of 2012 sales (CHF145.8 million) in 2012.

Europe accounted for 16% of net sales in 2012 and the US accounted for just 3% of net sales in 2012.

Customer order prepayments declined to CHF62.0 million, compared to CHF229.4 million in 2011.

Typical of the climate seen last year, Meyer Burger noted that “onerous contracts” resulted in CHF23.4 million in cash outflow, yet successful negotiations with customers’ orders resulted in positive settlements of almost CHF8 million in 2012.

However, the company noted that new provisions of around CHF11.5 million had been made in 2013, before settlements.

Finlay Colville, vice president of NPD Solarbuzz said: “Other key tool makers serving the PV ingot/wafer segment – most noticeably Applied Materials, GTAT and Komatsu – have made strategic decisions to retreat from PV ingot/wafer tool marketing efforts for some time, recognising that the ingot/wafer segment is likely to remain depressed for some time yet. These companies have the luxury of adjacent market revenue streams.”

Losses

The significant decline in sales, despite significant restructuring efforts, resulted in a negative EBITDA for 2012 of CHF33.2 million, compared to a positive EBITDA of CHF 278.4 million in 2011 and record sales. 

Taking into account depreciation and amortisation, EBIT was negative CHF135.4 million, with a net loss of CHF115.9 million.

Restructuring

Meyer Burger noted that the majority of the restructuring efforts announced in 2012 had been completed. The company reported a headcount reduction of 22% to 2,186 for the year.

The reduction in operating costs as a result of the restructuring were said to enable a break-even point of CHF500 million in sales in 2013.

2013 guidance

Meyer Burger said it expected 2013 sales to be around CHF400 million (US$424 million), indicating losses of around CHF100 million this year. The company said that net sales from new orders would most likely become effective during the second half of the year or at the beginning of 2014.

This was said to be due to the expectation that a market recovery for equipment spending would materialise in the latter part of 2013. The company claimed that it expected to sign an unspecified number of new order contracts for integrated production lines including its Heterojunction solar cell lines, as well as contracts regarding diamond wire saws in the near future.

However, Colville raised further concerns regarding new equipment orders being placed by PV manufacturers in 2013: “There is strong risk attached to any strategy that is dependent on a market rebound for PV equipment during the second half of 2013, any appreciable revenues coming from diamond wire cutting in a multi-dominant end-market with low poly pricing, and for any large pull on heterojunction turn-key lines.

“It is hard to see exactly where the rebound is for capital equipment spending today, with any uptick in confidence likely to be limited only to end-market demand. The spending cycles for downstream PV installations and PV capacity equipment are completely out of phase and any cyclic behavior is not directly comparable. PV

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