“Meyer Burger successfully returned to profitability in the first half of 2018. However, the same period also showed substantial market volatility in terms of customer demand for our photovoltaic products and solutions,” said Hans Brändle, CEO of Meyer Burger. “We have initiated an ambitious transformation program that will enable Meyer Burger to become leaner and more focused. Our strategic priorities remain Heterojunction, SmartWire Connection Technology as well as next-generation cell/module technologies.”
As the manufacturing industry for PV wafers, cells and modules is predominantly located in Asia, Meyer Burger will also move a significant part of its global sales and services functions for the standard PV business solutions from Europe to Asia, largely to China. The company is also evaluating further outsourcing or co-operation partnership models for its standard PV products in order to bring its mainstream business closer to its customers and localize design and manufacturing to reduce costs and safeguard margins. At the same time, the global production footprint will be optimized.
With these moves, Meyer Burger’s future PV business activities will be mainly concentrated in Hohenstein-Ernstthal (Germany) and Wuxi-Shanghai (China). The company will rightsize its headquarter structure accordingly.
Meyer Burger will concentrate its strategic focus in PV mainly on Heterojunction, SmartWire Connection Technology (SWCT™) and on promising next-generation cell/module technologies, such as tandem cells that use different types of stacked cells. The company has registered increased customer interest in these technologies. In particular, inquiries from prospects outside of China have gained momentum. However, as the market environment remains uncertain, the timing of order entries continues to be difficult to predict.
Meyer Burger has spent on average about CHF 50 million (approximately $50 million) per year in R&D over the past few years. The company will strengthen its PV technology and engineering competence in Asia to further increase R&D customer proximity. As a result of the repositioning of its standard PV business, the reinforced focus on cell/module technologies and a concentration of future R&D activities on most promising products, Meyer Burger expects savings in annual R&D expenses in an amount of approximately CHF 10 million.
The realignment and relocation of different functions and a more effective organizational structure will result in an overall reduction of about 100 employees (FTE) or 9% of the workforce compared to the expected number of employees of around 1,100 (after discontinuation of the manufacturing activities in Thun as announced on Nov. 2, 2017). All personnel measures will be implemented in a manner as socially responsible as possible. Changes in the Executive Board and the Board of Directors are also planned as part of the transformation program to reflect the adjustments and future size of the company.
Once this transformation program has been fully executed, Meyer Burger expects a positive EBITDA impact of about CHF 25 million on an annual basis as of the fiscal year 2021. Three-quarters of these measures are planned to be implemented by end of 2019. Upon completion of the transformation program, Meyer Burger expects its breakeven level at net earnings to be reached with a net sales volume of about CHF 250 million.