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Solar industry

Lights go out on 250 jobs at Meyer Burger

By swissinfo.ch and agencies

Swiss solar equipment maker Meyer Burger has announced plans to cut 250 jobs by the end of the year, a third of them in Switzerland, with the aim of saving CHF50 million ($51.5 million) a year.

The maker of production equipment for solar cells has already executed numerous measures over the past five years: reducing its operating expenses, simplifying its corporate structure and re-adjusting capacities due to what it described as the “extremely challenging situation in the solar industry”.

In a statement on Thursday, Meyer Burger, based in Thun in canton Bern, said the objective of the restructuring programme was “to extensively strengthen the company’s strategic technology units focused on high-end photovoltaic user markets and to increase its flexibility in the often challenging high-end key markets”.

The 250 job losses represent about a sixth of the total 1,547 full-time equivalents. In addition to Switzerland, the company will also cut staff in Asia.

“Wherever possible, reductions will be achieved through natural fluctuations or early retirement schemes. However, it will most likely not be possible to avoid terminating employment contracts with many people,” it said.

Meyer Burger has been tightening its belt for a while. In March 2012, it said it would cut 450 jobs out of just over 3,000.

Market reaction

Since 2011, the level of staff and other operating expenses has declined by over 36% from CHF330 million to CHF210 million.

As a result, in the first half of 2016 the company recorded a profit at the EBITDA level for the first time since 2012. The EBITDA profit amounted to CHF6.2 million and the positive cash flow from operating activities CHF15.4 million.

Swiss employees of Meyer Burger reacted with incomprehension on Thursday. In a statement, they said that despite the company seeming to be on the right track, given the turnaround in profit, it was nevertheless focusing on a “slimming treatment” without explaining the strategy behind it.

“The improvements we achieved during the first half of 2016 in terms of our sales markets but also with respect to our operating results have been very encouraging. However, we must lift our company into sustainable profitability on the net earnings level as well,” said CEO Peter Pauli.

“We want to align Meyer Burger for the future and become leaner, increasingly flexible and even more focused than before on the high-end user markets in the photovoltaic industry. This unfortunately leads to far-reaching measures within our organisational structure.”

Meyer Burger’s share price rose on the news, increasing by 4.5% in early trading on Thursday. 

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swissinfo.ch and agencies



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