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Astronergy halts module production in Germany

The German subsidiary of the Chinese Chint Group will be restructured. The German site will now focus on marketing and sales as well as areas such as customer care, logistics, customs clearance and other business-related services for European and global customers. More than 200 of the 230 employees will lose their jobs.

Astronergy has confirmed its module production in Germany will cease, days after rumors about the future of its Frankfurt (Oder) facility started to spread.

Astronergy Solar Modules GmbH in Frankfurt (Oder) will be restructured to become a European sales and service center. The German site of Astronergy – part of the Chinese Chint Group which has made the news this week thanks to its success in China – will concentrate on marketing and sales, customer care, logistics, customs clearance and other business-related services for European and global customers.

The restructuring is expected to lead to the loss of more than 200 of the 230 jobs currently held at the site. Management will start negotiations with worker representatives while developing a social plan as soon as possible, the company said in a statement.

“The realignment means a serious cut for our company and employees,” said Paul Xinhua Ji, managing director of Astronergy Solar Modules GmbH. “However, in our opinion, the market situation will no longer allow the continuation of production at the site.”

A date for the production shut-down was not given and should be negotiated in the coming weeks.

In future, the company’s modules will come from its Asian production facilities, with the company stating a seamless supply will continue. “All warranties and guarantees for the customers of Astronergy Solar Modules GmbH continue to be valid,” added the statement.

EU manufacture not cost competitive

Astronergy took over the facility in 2014 from insolvent competitor Conergy.

The economic situation makes realignment of the business unavoidable, according to the company. The market for PV production in Germany has steadily deteriorated for years with several manufacturers disappearing.

“At Astronergy Solar Modules GmbH, too, the order situation continued to deteriorate until the fourth quarter of 2017, following good capacity utilization,” added the company statement announcing the halt in production. “A significant tightening of the already tense situation was due to the expiry of the EU minimum import price provisions [for imported Chinese solar products] in September 2018, and the associated massive price wars with a simultaneous increase in material costs.”

Despite highly automated processes, EU production costs are not competitive with non-European competitors.

“The cost-effectiveness of producing solar modules in Germany can no longer be guaranteed in the circumstances described,” Astronergy added.

The PV manufacturer had announced short-time work for its employees in September, and hoped the market would stabilize. At the beginning of the year, permission for short-time working was removed.

Source: pv magazine