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11 December 2009


Soitec acquires CPV system maker Concentrix Solar

Soitec Group of Bernin, France, which manufactures engineered substrates including silicon-on-insulator wafers (as well as III-V epiwafers through its Picogiga International division), has agreed to acquire about 80% of the shares of privately held concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) system maker Concentrix Solar GmbH of Freiburg, Germany, valuing the whole firm at €55m ($80.9m). The remaining 20% of the shares continue to be owned by Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE (from which Concentrix was spun off in 2005) as well as the firm’s founders and senior management. Upon closing the transaction, Concentrix will retain its staff and operate within a new PV business unit of Soitec Group.

The transaction also includes access to CPV cell technologies from Fraunhofer ISE (Europe’s largest solar energy research institute, with more than 20 years of experience in III-V solar cell development).

Soitec says that entering the fast-growing solar industry is In line with its strategy: capturing value at the system level as well as expanding its revenue base as demand for CPV systems is expected to increase strongly in the coming years.

CPV technology offers a competitive solution for large power plants in high irradiation countries, says Soitec. Concentrix’s patented solution, which is proven in various power plants and demonstration installations in Spain, Italy, Korea and the USA, uses Fresnel lenses to focus sunlight almost 500-fold onto a small area of high-efficiency solar cells, reducing the need for costly materials and increasing system efficiency. In August, Concentrix said that it had raised its record for CPV AC (alternating-current) system efficiency from 23% (first achieved in May 2008) to 25% by using its new CX-75 generation of modules.

Soitec reckons that its engineered substrate technologies are key to improving solar cell performance, and hence complement Concentrix’s expertise in high-efficiency CPV systems for solar power plants.

“The Concentrix solution, which we believe is the best for solar farms and therefore industrial production of solar-sourced electricity, has exceptional synergy with Soitec technologies,” says Soitec’s president & CEO André-Jacques Auberton-Hervé. The acquisition represents a natural expansion into the fast-growing solar market, allowing Soitec to leverage its technology and process knowledge in developing cost-competitive PV solutions up to the system level, he adds. “We plan to become an active player in the city of Freiburg both through Concentrix industrial activities and through the long-term partnership between Soitec and the Fraunhofer ISE. Like other Soitec core businesses, the CPV business aligns with our mission to innovate and create new, energy-efficient materials for high-volume markets serving sustainable development.”

As part of the transaction, Fraunhofer ISE has entered into a long-term license agreement with Soitec related to CPV cell manufacturing technology. The partners aim to co-develop next-generation very-high-efficiency CPV cells based on Soitec’s proprietary technologies, boosting CPV system performance. The collaboration includes French government microelectronics research laboratory CEA-Leti, Soitec’s long-term partner within the Grenoble R&D cluster.

“We look forward to maintaining and strengthening our long-standing partnership with Concentrix through Soitec,” says Fraunhofer ISE's director Eicke Weber. “Soitec will provide remarkable resources for advanced technical development of our III-V solar cell technology and will increase efficiency of existing Concentrix products and technologies,” he reckons.

“We are very pleased to further expand our long-standing collaboration with Soitec, and to reinforce our relationship with the Fraunhofer Institute,” comments CEA-Leti’s CEO Laurent Malier. “Combining our R&D efforts in Europe is key to supporting European industrial leadership in the critical field of renewable energy,” he adds.

“We are looking forward to the strategic and technical opportunities arising from the combination of our skills and technologies and the acceleration of our cost reduction and system efficiency roadmaps,” says Concentrix’s CEO Hansjörg Lerchenmüller. “With Soitec’s experience and financial strengths, we are going to be able to boost our growth further and move faster in the industrial phase.”

From September 2006 to August 2008, Concentrix operated a CPV module pilot-production line with a capacity of 1MW. Since September 2008, Concentrix has produced CPV modules using a fully automated production line with an annual capacity of 25MW. The building and infrastructure are designed in such a way that production capacity can quickly be increased to 100MW, says the firm.

The transaction includes an earn-out option based on sales growth performance in 2010. The agreement also contains put-and-call option rights granting (1) Soitec a call option (from January 2012) to buy the remaining 20% of Concentix shares, and (2) Fraunhofer Institute, Concentrix founders and senior management a put option (from January 2013) to sell their shares to Soitec. Pre-agreed multiples determine the exercise price of the put-and-call option rights, and the exercise of the put option is also subject to Concentrix achieving certain financial targets.

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