Although investments in standard PV increased because of declining prices for PERC equipment, cell and module manufacturers often postponed major investment decisions in new technologies.
The transformation program launched in October 2018 is on track to achieve its key objectives and is constantly being adapted to market dynamics. Due to the sale of non-core businesses and substantial cost reductions in continuing operations, the break-even level is falling steadily.
“Against the backdrop of this slump in the market, we focused on implementing our strategic priorities: further developing our leading production solutions for heterojunction (HJT) and SmartWire Connection Technology (SWCT),” said Hans Brändle, CEO of Meyer Burger. “The first manufacturing line will begin series production soon. We believe the major market interest in our technology will translate into real orders. However, the significant decline and unattractive margins in standard PV business have prompted us to review the originally planned relocation of some of our production to China and to adapt our sales focus. We intend to concentrate our future PV business activities mainly at our largest location, Hohenstein-Ernstthal (Germany).”
In a difficult market environment dominated by the US-China trade dispute and the Chinese government’s unclear solar funding policy, Meyer Burger achieved incoming orders of CHF 94 million ($96.5 million, compared to CHF 137.9 million in H1 2018. Adjusted for the sale of the wafering business, incoming orders remained stable (-0.6%).
Net sales dropped to CHF 122.6 million ($126 million) compared to the previous year (CHF 232.3 million in H1 2018, adjusted by CHF 193.4 million for the sale of the wafering business). Adjusted for currency effects and the sale of the wafering business, the organic decline in sales for continuing business was 36.8%.
Operating income after costs of products and services was CHF 63.1 million (CHF 120.1 million in H1 2018), with a margin of 51.5% during the first half of 2019 (51.7% in H1 2018). Due to the decline in sales, EBITDA was below the level achieved during the same period in the previous year. The figure was CHF -13.2 million in the first half of 2019 (CHF +29.2 million in H1 2018).
In the first half of 2019, the company had negative cash flow from operations of CHF -57.6 million (CHF -16.4 million in H1 2018). This negative cash flow from operations is mainly attributable to an increase in net working capital.
The medium and long-term growth outlook for the solar industry has continued to improve against the backdrop of current concerns over climate change. After a lull in growth during the last 12 months due to restructuring of funding for China’s solar market, significant double-digit expansion in global installed solar power output is now forecast to return. Meyer Burger believes that more than half of this solar power capacity will be installed outside China.
“Meyer Burger will continue to make substantial investments in research and development in order to remain a market leader in the premium segment,” Brändle concluded. “With our focus on developing high-efficiency industrial HJT production solutions, we have achieved record cell efficiency of over 24.7% in commercialized HJT systems. We are already working on a roadmap for HJT cells with even higher levels of efficiency. The collaboration with REC will lead to a quantum lead in the manufacture of HJT/SmartWire modules.”