Centrotherm Group

Business operations of centrotherm photovoltaics AG continue unchanged

editor, 14 August 2012

- Customers have confidence in the technology and sector leader

- Equipment system upgrades, spare parts deliveries and services are secured

- Presence at important photovoltaic trade fairs

centrotherm photovoltaics AG has succeeded in seamlessly continuing its business operations during the current insolvency protection proceedings. Despite the continued difficult market situation, new orders in the Solar Cell & Module segment, in particular, underscore the expertise of the leading technology and equipment supplier to the photovoltaic sector. For example, one new Taiwanese customer ordered a package of key equipment for diffusion and antireflective coating. A renowned Taiwanese customer of many years' standing also ordered the c.FIRE, the new generation of the established fast-firing furnace. centrotherm photovoltaics is a global market leader in both diffusion and PECVD systems, and the company ranks second in fast-firing furnaces.

Current projects have also been continued under the insolvency protection arrangements. In the coming days, a further partial delivery of key equipment for a 360 MW solar cell line will be made to a customer in China, a customer of many years' standing. "The seamless continuation of operations, and the loyalty of our customers and suppliers, are supporting our reorganization process, and form an important foundation for centrotherm's future. Our aim is to further strengthen our excellent market position and competitiveness," emphasized CEO Robert M. Hartung.

centrotherm photovoltaics and its foreign subsidiaries continue to provide system upgrades, replacement parts deliveries and services as previously.

centrotherm photovoltaics will present itself with its portfolio products and services at the EU PVSEC, one of the leading international photovoltaic industry trade fairs, which is to be held in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, at the end of September. Further trade fair activities will also occur in Taiwan, India and the MENA region in 2012.

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centrotherm photovoltaics AG files for Chapter 11-type proceedings under its own administration

editor, 10 July 2012

centrotherm photovoltaics AG has today submitted an application to the relevant District Court of Ulm for the launching of insolvency protection proceedings (pursuant to the German Act Relating to the Further Simplification of the Reorganization of Companies [ESUG], and Section 270b of the German Insolvency Directive [InsO]), and for the opening of insolvency proceedings under its own administration in connection with this application. With the help of these proceedings, the company aims to pursue the reorganization path that it has already adopted. The application includes the subsidiaries centrotherm thermal solutions GmbH & Co. KG and centrotherm SiTec GmbH. The activities of the companies centrotherm management services GmbH & Co. KG and centrotherm cell & module GmbH are to be prospectively bundled within the parent company as part of the reorganization. All other subsidiaries both in Germany and abroad will continue to operate as previously, and will not participate in the insolvency protection proceedings.

The German Act Relating to the Further Simplification of the Reorganization of Companies (ESUG), the instrument that centrotherm has applied for, is designed to provide protection to companies in insolvency proceedings, and is an act which came into force on March 1, 2012. The ESUG allows companies to restructure themselves based on a coordinated reorganization and future concept. During the "protective" phase, which is limited to three months, the company is protected from creditors' enforcements and sanctions, and can remain fully operational.

To support these moves, the Supervisory Board of centrotherm photovoltaics AG has appointed reorganization expert and specialist insolvency lawyer Tobias Hoefer to the Management Board with effect as of July 11, 2012.

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Changes to the Management Board of centrotherm photovoltaics AG

editor, 18 June 2012

- Jan von Schuckmann to be Chief Restructuring Officer

- Hans Autenrieth steps down from Management Board

The Supervisory Board of centrotherm photovoltaics AG has appointed Jan von Schuckmann as Chief Restructuring Officer (CRO) with effect as of June 18, 2012. In his Management Board role, he will be responsible for the further implementation of the ct focus restructuring program, and will oversee the current discussions with banks about the future financing of the centrotherm Group.

Hans Autenrieth, company founder and Management Board member of many years' standing, has decided as part of this restructuring to relinquish his Management Board mandate also with effect as of June 18, 2012. Hans Autenrieth will continue to be available to the company in a consultative function with his extensive experience and contacts.

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centrotherm photovoltaics AG: scope for financial maneuver restricted

editor, 13 June 2012

Due to the continued poor market environment, and the resultant strained financing situation, merchandise credit insurance companies have today informed centrotherm photovoltaics AG that they will no longer insure merchandise deliveries to the centrotherm photovoltaics Group. Based on this information, the Management Board anticipates a negative liquidity effect in a low double-digit amount in millions of euros.

In coordination with its banks, centrotherm photovoltaics AG has mandated a renowned management consultancy company to prepare a reorganization report that is to form the basis for further discussions with banks to secure the Group's financing. Until further notice, open credit and guarantee lines can no longer be utilized given current financing discussions with banks.

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centrotherm photovoltaics’ centaurus technology for high efficiency solar cells successfully transferred into industrial-scale production

editor, 15 May 2012

- More than 100.000 centaurus high efficiency solar cells already processed

- Cell efficiencies exceed 19.5 % in industrial production

- centaurus takes center stage at this year’s SNEC PV

At this year’s 6th International Solar Industry and Photovoltaic Exhibition & Conference in Shanghai (SNEC), centrotherm photovoltaics AG focuses on the successful ramp-up of centaurus high efficiency cell production at customers in China and Europe. As a highlight, centrotherm offers live measurements of centaurus cells to the fair audience and thus demonstrates constant cell efficiency in mass production.

“Almost on a weekly basis, lab results of efficiency world records are reported. Yet, the crucial figures are those in mass production,” commented Dr. Peter Fath, CTO of centrotherm photovoltaics AG. “By now, around 100.000 cells have been processed with centaurus technology - the majority at our Chinese pilot customer, who has already reached efficiencies of more than 19.5% in industrial-scale production on a daily average, and even up to 19.8% at its peak. These figures once more substantiate our technology leadership.”

centaurus technology combines the one-step selective emitter technology with a local Al-BSF and dielectric passivated rear side. Compared to present standard industrial solar cells with extensive screen printed Al-BSF, centaurus cells show considerably reduced rear surface recombination velocity with increased Voc of more than 10 mV and an improvement of internal light reflection for long wavelengths leading to a gain in Jsc of about 1.5 mA/cm². Both effects are claimed to lead to an overall efficiency improvement of about one percentage point, allowing average production efficiencies of more than 19.5 %. Along with fine line printing, reducing paste consumption of the front side silver paste by more than 20 %, we already achieved conversion efficiencies reaching the 20 % level on 156x156mm² monocrystalline (cz) wafers.

Currently, more than 50MW of centaurus technology are in ramp-up into mass production. Further existing customers have already expressed great interest in implementing this technology. Its advantage is the availability for mass production at the same cost level as the standard process. Compared to other passivated rear side concepts, it is based on well proven processes and materials, allowing a fast and easy implementation into running production lines.

"We are pursuing the goal that our customers strengthen their position as premium cost leaders. Thanks to our regular upgrade packages they have the ability to apply state-of-the-art technology in the long run”, commented Dr. Peter Fath.”

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centrotherm photovoltaics reports figures for the first quarter of 2012

editor, 10 May 2012

- Group books show major new order from Algeria's Sonelgaz

- Order book position amounts to EUR 508.2 million

- Revenue at EUR 82.5 million – loss before interest and tax of EUR 42.9 million

- Equity ratio increases by 2.1 points to 43.2 per cent

In a difficult market environment, centrotherm photovoltaics AG reports EUR 255.4 million of new order intake in the first quarter of 2012 (prior-year period: EUR 224.3 million). Following a related advance payment, this new order intake figure now includes the EUR 227.1 million order awarded by Sonelgaz to construct a fully integrated solar module factory in Algeria. The sector and financing situation in the industry remains tense, and continues to be reflected in business trends. The Group generated EUR 82.5 million of revenue in the first three months of this year (previous-year period: EUR 189.3 million). The EBITDA fell to EUR minus 27.9 million (previous-year period: EUR 24.0 million). The Group reported a EUR 42.9 million operating loss at the earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) level (previous-year: EUR 17.7 million profit). The net income came to EUR minus 30.6 million (previous-year period: EUR 12.2 million).

The order book position amounted to EUR 508.2 million as of March 31, 2012 (December 31, 2011: EUR 423.0 million).The equity ratio increased by 2.1 points to 43.2 per cent in comparison with the 31 December 2011. The number of employees decreased by 9.4 per cent to 1,747 (31 December 2011: 1,928)

"With the order to construct a solar factory in Algeria, we are showing that centrotherm is succeeding in a highly competitive solar market with ‘made in Germany’ technology and products. We do, however, continue to face an extremely turbulent market. As a consequence, we incurred EUR 21.5 million of market-related charges in the first quarter, and EUR 6.6 million due to the strategic reorientation of our Thin Film segment," commented Dr. Thomas Riegler, CFO of centrotherm photovoltaics AG. “Our priority in the current period lies completely in the implementation of our ct focus restructuring program of safeguarding liquidity and results."

Segment trends

In its Silicon & Wafer segment, centrotherm photovoltaics achieved revenue of EUR 37.2 million with the sale of silicon production technology and systems (previous-year period: EUR 29.3 million). The segment reported a EUR 0.2 million operating loss at the earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) level (previous-year period: EUR 2.2 million profit). The segment's order book position stood at EUR 195.5 million as of March 31, 2012 (December 31, 2011: EUR 176.1 million).

In its Solar Cell & Module segment, revenue amounted to EUR 37.2 million (prior-year period: EUR 154.9 million). The segment reported a EUR 32.2 million loss at the EBIT level (previous-year period: EUR 19.3 million profit). This segment's order book stood at EUR 306.3 million at the end of the first quarter (December 31, 2011: EUR 234.6 million). The Thin Film Module segment generated EUR 8.1 million of revenue (previous-year period: EUR 5.1 million). The segment reported a EUR 10.5 million loss at the EBIT level (prior-year period: EUR 3.8 million loss). The Thin Film Module segment reported an order book position of EUR 6.4 million (December 31, 2011: EUR 12.3 million).

Outlook

"We do not believe that the negative trend in the sector will be reversed in the first six months of 2012," commented CFO Mr. Riegler. "However, we regard the continued cost pressure in the photovoltaic industry as an opportunity. This is because only highly efficient technologies and production systems will lead to competitive advantages for our customers. We will benefit from our product portfolio as soon as the market picks up again.”

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centrotherm photovoltaics reports EUR 255.4 million of new orders in Q1 2012 in difficult market environment

editor, 04 May 2012

- Group books major order from Algeria's Sonelgaz

- Revenue at EUR 82.5 million

- Loss before interest and tax of EUR 42.9 million

In a difficult market environment, centrotherm photovoltaics AG reports EUR 255.4 million of new order intake in the first quarter of 2012 (prior-year period: EUR 224.3 million). Following a related advance payment, this new order intake figure now includes the EUR 227.1 million order awarded by Sonelgaz to construct a fully integrated solar module factory in Algeria. The sector and financing situation remains tense, and continues to be reflected in business trends. The Group generated EUR 82.5 million of revenue in the first three months of this year (previous-year period: EUR 189.3 million). The Group reported a EUR 42.9 million operating loss at the earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) level (previous year: EUR 17.7 million profit). The order book position amounted to EUR 508.2 million as of March 31, 2012 (December 31, 2011: EUR 423.0 million).

"The results reflect the market turbulence that we also have to contend with," commented Dr. Thomas Riegler, CFO of centrotherm photovoltaics AG. "The sector is experiencing its most severe crisis to date, and consolidation is fully underway. For this reason, we are pushing full steam ahead with the implementation of our ct focus restructuring program, which comprises extensive measures to secure earnings and liquidity. To return centrotherm to the path of sustainable profitability our declared objective is a streamlined and efficient organizational structure, and a strategic orientation to our technological core competencies and products especially in the Solar cell & Module segment, and in the semiconductor area. We are assuming that there will not be a significant improvement to the current situation in the first half of 2012."

Segment trends

In its Silicon & Wafer segment, centrotherm photovoltaics achieved revenue of EUR 37.2 million with the sale of silicon production technology and systems (previous-year period: EUR 29.3 million). The segment reported a EUR 0.2 million operating loss at the earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) level (previous-year period: EUR 2.2 million profit). The segment's order book position stood at EUR 195.5 million as of March 31, 2012 (December 31, 2011: EUR 176.1 million). During the period under review, the risk increased that litigation entailing a triple-digit amount in millions of euros might arise relating to a major project. No further provisions have been formed to date since the Management Board, on the basis of its current assessment, is assuming that the company will incur no larger related charges due to contractual agreements.

In its Solar Cell & Module segment, revenue amounted to EUR 37.2 million (prior-year period: EUR 154.9 million). The segment reported a EUR 32.2 million loss at the EBIT level (previous-year period: EUR 19.3 million profit). This segment's order book stood at EUR 306.3 million at the end of the first quarter (December 31, 2011: EUR 234.6 million).

The Thin Film Module segment generated EUR 8.1 million of revenue (previous-year period: EUR 5.1 million). The segment reported a EUR 10.5 million loss at the EBIT level (prior-year period: EUR 3.8 million loss). The Thin Film Module segment reported an order book position of EUR 6.4 million (December 31, 2011: EUR 12.3 million).

Outlook

"We are not assuming a significant improvement to the current situation in the first half of 2012," commented CFO Mr. Riegler. "We nevertheless also regard continued cost pressure in the photovoltaic industry as an opportunity because our customers are focusing on highly efficient technologies and production systems that deliver competitive advantages. We also identify medium- to long-term potentials from photovoltaics due to global energy demand growth and the energy revolution that has already started."

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SEMATECH and centrotherm Partner to Develop Low Temperature Processes for Future CMOS and Memory Devices

editor, 10 April 2012

- Joint effort to extend the technology roadmap for enabling process technologies

- Partnership is part of centrotherm’s strategy to expand the semiconductor segment

SEMATECH today announced that centrotherm thermal solutions, a 100% subsidiary of centrotherm photovoltaics AG and a developer of process tools and high-tech production systems for the manufacture of semiconductor components, has joined its Front End Processes (FEP) program, and will work with SEMATECH to develop new low temperature processing techniques for future high-performance logic and memory devices.

Continued scaling will require new materials and new device concepts that necessitate lower thermal budget process flows. For example, to enable the introduction of high mobility semiconductors as the channel material of transistors, low temperature processes are critical to preserve the beneficial properties of channel materials. Similarly, advanced memory technologies require superior isolation as well as low thermal budget oxidation approaches – especially for metal oxide RRAM devices. Plasma-based processing techniques offer an attractive approach to help realize such low-thermal budget processes to enable the integration of new materials into emerging device technologies

As a member of this program, centrotherm will closely collaborate with experts from SEMATECH’s FEP research team, to develop plasma-based low temperature techniques using SEMATECH test structures. The goal of this team would be to demonstrate their applicability towards usage in high performance logic transistors and memory devices in sub 14 nm advanced technology nodes.

“SEMATECH provides centrotherm with an excellent test device and characterization platform to help centrotherm identify and demonstrate applications for our tool,” said Peter Augustin, CEO of centrotherm thermal solutions GmbH & Co. KG. “This collaboration will enable centrotherm to showcase low temperature processing capabilities to our customers and is part of our ct focus program to expand our Semiconductors & Microelectronics area.”

SEMATECH is pleased to welcome centrotherm as a partner,” said Raj Jammy, SEMATECH’s vice president of emerging technologies. “centrotherm’s unique expertise in thermal solutions will complement our own device and process expertise. We will work together to develop practical and promising manufacturable solutions to address the emerging needs of the advanced transistor and memory markets.”

The goal of SEMATECH’s FEP program is to provide novel leading-edge materials, processes, structural modules and electrical and physical characterization methods to support the continued scaling of logic and memory applications.

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centrotherm photovoltaics confirms preliminary results and looks back on a challenging 2011

editor, 27 March 2012

- Revenue up by 11.9 percent to EUR 698.5 million

- Earnings trend reflects difficult sector environment: Operating loss (EBIT) of EUR 19.8 million

- Group launches ct focus efficiency program to cut costs and further adjust capacities

With today's publication of its 2011 annual report, centrotherm photovoltaics AG confirms the preliminary results it announced on March 6, 2012, and presents further figures. Revenue advanced by 11.9 percent to EUR 698.5 million (2010: EUR 624.2 million), with the export share standing at 95.4 percent (2010: 94.7 percent). Total operating performance grew by 11.1 percent to EUR 757.0 million (2010: EUR 681.2 million). Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) fell from EUR 101.3 million to EUR 10.2 million. The Group incurred an operating loss before interest and tax (EBIT) of EUR 19.8 million (2010: operating profit of EUR 75.4 million), and a consolidated net loss of EUR 15.9 million (2001: net income of EUR 51.1 million).

The equity ratio fell to 41.1 percent due to the consolidated net loss and the dividend payout (2010: 49.2 percent). Our liquidity position amounted to EUR 137.6 million as of the December 31, 2011 balance sheet date

"2011 was no easy year for us. While the first half of the year was still characterized by a thoroughgoing order boom that prompted us to expand our production capacities, we were confronted by price falls and a deteriorating market from the third quarter of 2011. Overcapacities and ruinous price declines burdened polysilicon manufacturers, from wafers through to modules. This difficult sector environment, coupled with the late-summer European debt crisis, the banking crisis and uncertainties on financial markets demanded much of our customers and us," commented Dr. Thomas Riegler, CFO of centrotherm photovoltaics AG, at today's publication of the 2011 annual report. "These overall circumstances severely curbed our customers' propensity to invest and their financing possibilities, which fed through to modest new order intake in the third quarter. The sector and financing situation worsened in the fourth quarter, with our order situation finally undergoing a further drastic deterioration."

The Management Board has responded to the continued strains in the market and launched its ct focus efficiency program to run alongside cost and sales campaigns that are already in place. The program's stated objective is to grow sustainably and profitably with a streamlined and efficient organizational structure, and a strategic focus on crystalline silicon along the photovoltaic value chain.

Segment trends

In the Solar Cell & Module segment, revenue was increased from EUR 404.5 million in the previous year to EUR 607.9 million in a difficult 2011, thereby running counter to the general sector trend. The strained market situation, particularly in the fourth quarter 2011, fed through to the postponement and cancellation of individual projects, necessitating the revaluation of inventories. This pushed segment operating earnings down to EUR 71.9 million (previous year: EUR 91.6 million). Revenue in the Silicon & Wafer segment amounted to EUR 57.9 million (previous year: EUR 201.7 million). A loss of EUR 70.3 million was incurred at the EBIT level (previous year: operating profit of EUR 21.2 million). This segment's business trend was primarily affected by the strained sector situation and the polysilicon price decline. Given the extreme deterioration in the market and financing situations, the Management Board was prompted to apply impairment charges to individual large-scale projects in the third quarter of 2011, which significantly burdened operating earnings.

Revenue of EUR 32.7 million was generated in the Thin Film Module segment (previous year: EUR 18.0 million) - and predominantly by the wholly-owned subsidiary FHR Anlagenbau. A EUR 21.4 million loss was incurred at the EBIT level, in line with expectations (previous year: operating loss of EUR 37.4 million).

Order trend reflects sector environment

The reporting year elapsed was characterized by continued uncertainty on financial markets, the difficult PV sector market environment, and customers' investment reticence. centrotherm photovoltaics nevertheless booked new orders with a total volume of EUR 423.4 million in the 2011 financial year. The Solar Cell & Module segment generated 90 percent of these orders. The order book position stood at EUR 423.0 million as of December 31, 2011, of which EUR 234.6 million was attributable to the Solar Cell & Module segment, EUR 176.1 million to the Silicon & Wafer segment, and EUR 12.3 million to the Thin Film Module segment.

2012 outlook

centrotherm photovoltaics will be confronted by challenges again in 2012 with some uncertainties. The sector is undergoing a consolidation phase, and its further development depends on a large number of factors, including influences from politics and the financial markets, which are currently difficult to predict. centrotherm photovoltaics has prepared accordingly with our ct focus efficiency program. The technology and equipment provider is not assuming a significant change to the current situation during the first half of 2012.

“We also regard continued cost pressure in the photovoltaic sector as an opportunity for two reasons. First, our customers, manufacturers of solar cells and modules, and polysilicon, are focusing on highly-efficient technologies and production systems that lend them competitive advantages. Second, photovoltaics is quite clearly on a medium- to long-term growth path driven by the rising energy demand worldwide, and the energy policy turnaround that has started,” commented Robert M. Hartung, CEO and Management Board Spokesman of centrotherm photovoltaics AG. “We prefer to refrain from issuing a revenue and earnings forecast for the 2012 financial year given the current market situation. We have positioned ourselves very well for the future in strategic terms with our focus on our core competencies, a strong large-scale project business and by directing our sales efforts towards the MENA countries."

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