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Soltecture becomes latest German PV bankruptcy

09 May 2012

Heavily funded developer of thin-film PV modules could not cope with cut-throat competition, and is seeking an industrial investor.

Soltecture, the Berlin-based developer of thin-film solar modules formerly known as Sulfurcell, is the latest German photovoltaics company to go bust in the ongoing industry shake-out.

Prompted by the wider problems of manufacturing overcapacity and slack demand resulting from fast-disappearing incentives in key European markets, the collapsing price of conventional crystalline silicon solar modules has now sent a series of well-known and well-funded PV firms to the wall.

Soltecture’s executive team applied to open insolvency proceedings on May 9, wrote the company in a press release. The responsible insolvency court in Berlin Charlottenburg has appointed Hartwig Albers from the law firm Brinkmann & Partner as the preliminary insolvency administrator.

Soltecture, which specializes in copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) PV modules, had attracted €18.8 million in equity funding as recently as January 2011, in a round led by Intel Capital that took total funding in the company to beyond the €100 million mark.

It has also built a module production facility with a capacity of 35 MW and demonstrated record-breaking efficiencies for commercially viable thin-film products. But all of that progress, not to mention a listing in last year's "Cleantech 100" list, has counted for precious little in the face of a collapsing market.

In February, CEO Nikolaus Meyer had suggested that Soltecture was involved in negotiations with several Asian companies looking for a strategic partnership. “The discussions are at an advanced stage with a number of parties and we are very confident about closing a deal soon,” he had said at the time. Clearly that deal did not happen:

“Having extensively explored new financing options, the executive management saw no other viable option for averting the company’s impending insolvency at the present time,” read Soltecture’s statement.

“The high surplus capacity on the market has led to a dramatic drop in solar module prices, which - despite the company’s greatest efforts to further reduce costs - could not be compensated.”

Rescue bid?
Although the company’s future appears bleak, Meyer did hold out some hope that the recent negotiations for a sale may yet find success in the form of a rescue by an industrial investor willing to continue operations at Soltecture’s Adlershof headquarters:

“This is a tough day for our company,” said the CEO. “However, the discussions over the last month make me extremely confident that with our technology we will be able to secure a new, strong partner as a shareholder. We will be working together closely with our insolvency administrator, Hartwig Albers, to successfully negotiate an agreement with an industrial investor as quickly as possible”.

Soltecture is just the latest in a series of high-profile insolvencies to hit the previously all-conquering German PV sector, following the collapse of Q-Cells, Odersun and Solon, among others. Last year’s name-change from Sulfurcell to Soltecture reflected the company’s desire to target architects, who it was hoped would design the firm's energy-generating technology into new building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) schemes. But that market is yet to take off in any meaningful way.

ABTechLaCroix Precision OpticsBerkeley Nucleonics CorporationTRIOPTICS GmbHSPECTROGON ABHÜBNER PhotonicsUniverse Kogaku America Inc.
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