Manz Automation expands business model as future manufacturer of turnkey, integrated production lines for CIGS thin-film solar modules

07/19/2010 07:45:00 CEST

  • Exclusive know-how licensing and strategic alliance agreement with Würth Solar for exclusive rights of use to its CIGS production technology
  • Significant revenue and earnings growth already expected from 2011
  • Total capital expenditure for the transaction amounts to EUR 50 million for Manz Automation

Reutlingen/Schwäbisch-Hall, July 19, 2010 – Manz Automation AG, one of the world’s leading technology providers for the photovoltaic and flat panel display (FPD) industries, has signed a know-how licensing and strategic alliance agreement with Würth Solar GmbH & Co. KG. This gives Manz exclusive rights of use to Würth Solar’s CIGS production technology and means that it is now the only provider who can currently offer an integrated, fully productive production line for CIGS solar modules that can be operated cost efficiently. Würth Solar is also contributing its more than ten years of experience in developing and producing CIGS thin-film modules to the strategic alliance. The existing contractual relationship with Würth Solar and the Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung Baden-Württemberg (ZSW – Center for solar energy and hydrogen research), means that Manz also has exclusive access to their research results regarding CIGS modules on glass substrates. The ZSW currently holds the world record for CIGS technology with the highest efficiency of cells recorded to date of 20.1%. This means that CIGS is the thin-film technology with the highest efficiency potential. The strategic alliance is initially laid out for a period of ten years. Manz Automation aims to use this strategic alliance to become the market leader as a provider of fully integrated, cost-effective CIGS production lines (CIGSfab).

As compensation for the expertise licensing and the in-depth support from the partner’s staff, Manz has undertaken to pay EUR 50 million, which is due in installments through to commissioning of the first CIGSfab. In addition, the company is planning addition capital expenditure for research and development and to increase its staff. Financing for the transaction has been secured. It will be financed from existing equity, additional borrowing and from the cash flows that result from the expanded business model in future.

Dieter Manz, Manz Automation AG’s CEO, describes the strategic alliance agreement as being a key milestone in securing innovation leadership for thin-film technology: “By bundling our expertise in this strategic alliance, which is the only one of its kind in the world, we can supply solar manufacturers with fully-integrated production lines that will have the lowest manufacturing costs of all turnkey thin-film lines in the future. In addition, we can present our customers with a really credible technology and cost roadmap. This makes investments as secure as possible. As a result, we are giving thin-film technology a new push and are developing significant market potential.” ZSW’s research results serve as a basis in order to further increase the current effectiveness of 12.8%, which is currently at the top of the range industry-wide. The partners to the strategic alliance thus believe that the conditions have been put in place for cadmium-free CIGS technology to become the industry standard.

Bernd Sprecher, Managing Director of Würth Solar GmbH & Co. KG describes the special features of the joint business model: “We are contributing our entire development and production expertise to this strategic alliance, and are using our expertise to support the process from planning through to execution and taking the production lines into operation in order to help CIGS technology to finally break through. Parts of our existing CIGS line in future will also be used as a development line for the cooperation. The cooperation with Manz Automation is an important corner stone of the strategic development of Würth Solar.” The strategic alliance partners believe that the increased industrialization of CIGS module production will result in a milestone in the photovoltaic industry, which will once again significantly increase the cost-effectiveness of solar products.

For Manz Automation, this strategic step is the logical consequence of the targets already realized on its path to becoming a specialist for integrated production lines. Based on the large number of technologies developed in house and which are already successfully established on the market (for example for automation or laser processes), Manz reached a further milestone with the acquisition of Intech in Taiwan in April 2008, a company focusing on wet-chemical processes. In connection with the recently formed Manz Coating for vacuum coating technology, Manz covers around 90% of the value chain for CIGS thin-film technology. The fact that Manz Automation masters all of the processes required in a production line, optimally integrated solutions open up further potential for efficiency.

“Integration is our issue and the key to further significant cost reductions,” summarized Dieter Manz on the reasons for this project. “That is why we have substantially reinforced our technology in a dynamic, future-proof market. We can thus offer our customers end-to-end solutions from a single source – and thus have a unique product portfolio world-wide.”

The future additional offering will span entire CIGS production lines, which are to be shipped to manufacturers of thin-film solar modules world-wide. In total, the sales potential for a CIGSfab with a capacity of 120 MW per year is around EUR 150 million. Martin Hipp, Manz Automation’s CFO: “We are forecasting significant revenue growth from this strategic alliance from 2011. As a result of the enormous potential revenues from the sale of a CIGS production line, we believe that the successful implementation of our business model will bring us into a totally new dimension for revenues and earnings in the coming years!”

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