Solar sales at BTU International remain in winter mode

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The ‘solar winter endures’ at PV equipment supplier, BTU International, opined Paul J. van der Wansem, BTU chairman and CEO in a conference call that garnered no financial analyst questions.

The company reported fourth quarter sales of US$13.1 million, down 7.5% compared to US$14.1 million in the preceding quarter, which were primarily accredited to non-PV business segments.

Losses almost doubled in the quarter to US$4.4 million, compared to a net loss of US$2.4 million in the prior quarter, due in part to factory underutilisation.

Net sales for the full-year were US$58.1 million, down 23.7% compared to US$76.1 million for the year 2011. Net loss for 2012 was US$11.0 million compared to a net loss of US$2.7 million in 2011.

In the call, management noted that they shipped a single solar cell annealing tool in the fourth quarter, which was earmarked for advanced cell processing applications.

Due to continued limited capital expenditures by PV manufacturers the company said that it continued its strategy of ‘proof of process’ work with customers, notably with annealing and metallisation tools. The company expects to introduce a new metallisation product later in the year.

Paul J. van der Wansem, BTU Chairman and CEO, said: “In the alternative energy sector, we are still in the solar winter, which started in the early part of 2011. This has not only impacted our revenues and related expenses, but also contributed negatively in recording significant inventory write-downs as well as extra provisions for accounts receivable from some of our solar customers. We continued to take steps to reduce expenses and manage the downturn in solar without affecting our ability to compete when this market recovers. We ended the year with over US$20 million of cash and a solid balance sheet.”

The company guided first quarter revenues to be in the range of US$11 million to US$12 million, primarily driven by its semiconductor electronics, parts and service business.

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