VLSI Research reveals top 10 solar equipment suppliers in 2009: sales to top US$9 billion in 2010

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Different capital equipment spending cycles played havoc with the PV equipment supplier market last year. Coupled to a huge reduction in capacity expansions through the first three quarters of 2009, this meant that equipment sales declined 12.2% to a value of US$7.7 billion, compared to the previous year, according to new data released by VLSI Research. Although Applied Materials once again topped the rankings with an estimated US$1.1 billion (PV-Tech’s own estimates) in PV equipment sales, others found their core markets suffering and dropped from the Top 10 rankings by revenue altogether.

The biggest mover was centrotherm photovoltaics, which climbed from 5th place to claim the second spot. According to PV-Tech estimates, centrotherm photovoltaics had sales of US$686 million in 2009, fueled by the continued expansion of  polysilicon and ingot production, which has longer construction time frames and was less impacted by the economic slowdown.

This also benefited ALD Vacuum Technologies, a thermal furnace supplier and subsidiary of AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group, which entered the Top 10 rankings for the first time at number 9.

Another new entrant was NPC, a module manufacturing equipment supplier based in Japan. NPC had consolidated net sales of approximately US$190 million, an increase of 120.2% over the previous fiscal year. This was enough to see the company enter the Top 10 rankings at number 10 for the first time.

Although posting revenue for fiscal year 2010 US$544.2 million versus US$541.0 million dollars for fiscal year 2009, GT Solar on a calendar year basis, according to VLSI Research, saw sales decline slightly. Sales also declined at Schmid and Meyer Berger but all retained their rankings from the previous year.

VLSI Research noted that Meyer Burger and 3S Swiss Solar Systems merged while Roth and Rau acquired OTB, however these events occurred too late to impact the 2009 rankings.

In fact Roth and Rau, despite acquisitions had the biggest decline in revenues of the Top 10, due to its high dependence on the underperforming crystalline cell equipment market for both turnkey and stand-alone systems. According to full-year financial results, Roth and Rau’s sales were US$269 million in 2009, down from US$375 million in 2008.

Another big faller was Oerlikon Solar, which fell from second position in 2008 to fifth, due to the weakness in the a-Si thin film market. VLSI Research noted that OC Oerlikon chooses to report the sales of PV equipment from its Oerlikon Systems business, which manufactures crystalline cell manufacturing equipment, separately from Oerlikon Solar, although the combined revenues of these two businesses would not have influenced their ranking this year.

The fortunes of Ulvac, another turnkey supplier of a-Si thin film equipment, didn’t follow the same course as its competitor, Oerlikon Solar. The company had several large turnkey orders that were completed and generated revenue in 2009, helping to move the coming up one position to 7th in the rankings.

Dependence on thin film also impacted Von Ardenne in 2009. The company was ranked 10th in 2008, with sales of US$132 million. This was supported by strong sales to First Solar, which was constructing new facilities and tool installing aggressively. However, 2009 was more about ramping, so its sales declined and fell out of the Top 10 rankings altogether.

With crystalline wafer, cell, and module capacity all being increased significantly this year, further changes in the rankings are assured. Challenges in the a-Si thin-film sector could easily impact rankings, including those of Applied Materials in 2010. With First Solar building new lines in 2010,  suppliers such as Von Ardenne are expected to do better.


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