Switzerland's Meyer Burger shifts from making solar machinery to cells

ZURICH, May 26 (Reuters) - Switzerland’s loss-making Meyer Burger Technology has shifted from manufacturing solar machinery to making solar cells and modules, part of a pivot by its top shareholder, Russian oligarch Pyotr Kondrashev.

The company opened a solar module plant on Wednesday in eastern Germany, a week after it opening a separate solar cell plant in the region, moves that follow bankruptcies in the solar industry in the last decade.

A solar module is a photovoltaic panel made up of interconnected solar cells.

Meyer Burger has lost some $1 billion since 2012 as it struggled to sell its machinery used to make solar cells, including to manufacturers in China, amid a supply glut.

Kondrashev, an Austrian-based billionaire with 14.7% of Meyer Burger shares, and managers at his investment vehicle Sentis Capital pushed Meyer Burger from 2018 to use its machinery to make its own solar cells, which the company says are more efficient and durable than those of rivals.

Armed with up to 22.5 million euros ($27.5 million) in German government aid awarded in January for environmentally sustainable solar cell production, Meyer Burger hopes its new factories will help it rebound from years of disappointing results with “Made in Europe” branded products.

The module production in Freiberg near Dresden and the solar cell production facility in Bitterfeld-Wolfen north of Leipzig are using renovated plants once owned by SolarWorld, which failed in 2017 due to a glut in production that led to a series of bankruptcies here.

($1 = 0.8172 euros)

Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Edmund Blair