Tokyo Electron Withdraws From Solar Panel Manufacturing Equipment Business

2014/01/31 15:39
Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP CleanTech Institute

Tokyo Electron Ltd announced Jan 30, 2014, that its board of directors passed a resolution to withdraw from the thin-film photovoltaic panel production equipment (PVE) business on the day.

In 2009, Tokyo Electron became the Asia-Oceania region sales representative for Oerlikon Solar and started sales and marketing of an end-to-end manufacturing line for thin-film silicon (Si) solar panels. In 2012, Tokyo Electron acquired Oerlikon Solar and made a full-scale entry into the thin-film Si solar panel market.

However, due to an oversupply of solar panels and loose supply and demand balance of crystalline Si materials, the demand for amorphous (thin-film) Si solar panels, which had been expected to grow because amorphous Si solar panels do not consume crystalline Si much, did not take off. In addition, the conversion efficiency of thin-film Si solar panels did not increase as much as expected, lowering their competitiveness against crystalline Si solar panels.

Tokyo Electron made efforts to strengthen its development activities and lower costs. But it decided to stop the production, development and marketing of its solar panel production equipment because uncertainties in market recovery made it difficult to recoup its investment. The company will scale down the business unit, which will provide only after-sales services.

The bases of the PVE business are Switzerland-based TEL Solar AG and Technology Center Tsukuba (Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan). The business unit posted sales of ¥83 million (approx US$809,914) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013. It accounted for only 0.01% of the Tokyo Electron group's consolidated sales.

Tokyo Electron will consider transferring the employees in the business unit to other units of the group. But, for its Swiss subsidiary, the company will consider reducing personnel to streamline the organization in accordance with the downsizing of the business.

Tokyo Electron announced Dec 18, 2013, that it would post an extraordinary loss due to the revision of its business plan including the PVE business. Of the extraordinary loss of ¥46.7 billion posted for the third quarter of the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014, ¥32.6 billion was posted as an impairment loss to goodwill and fixed assets related to the PVE business.