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GT Advanced Developing Silicon Carbide Amid Solar Slump

GT Advanced Technologies Inc. (GTAT), a U.S. supplier to solar manufacturers and energy-efficient lighting companies, will offer furnaces that make silicon carbide crystals next year as orders for photovoltaic equipment slow.

GT Advanced plans to boost research and development at least 50 percent this year to more than $65 million, Chief Executive Officer Tom Gutierrez said today on a conference call. Sales will climb more than 6 percent to $925 million to $975 million, and the Merrimack, New Hampshire-based company’s backlog will fall to about $1.1 billion by the end of the year from $1.8 billion on March 31.

GT Advanced is seeking to diversify its product line as a global glut of solar panels reduces demand for its systems that make polysilicon and photovoltaic wafers, Gutierrez said.

“We do not believe that there will be a rebound in PV equipment demand” this year, he said. “Diversification beyond solar has been key to GT’s success.”

About 25 percent of GT Advanced’s sales came from the solar industry in fiscal 2012, which ended March 31, down from almost 100 percent the year before, Gutierrez said. The company is shifting its reporting schedule now from fiscal to calendar years.

Silicon carbide is a durable material that is used in bulletproof vests, car brakes and electronic devices.

“There are a handful of merchant silicon carbide suppliers in the market today,” Gutierrez said on the conference call. “But much like the polysilicon and sapphire markets before we entered them, we believe there is an opportunity to drive lower prices through a viable, high-volume, low-cost crystal growth solution.”

GT Advance declined 8.3 percent to $4.88 at 11:02 a.m. in New York, the lowest intraday since December 2009. The shares had fallen 27 percent this year through yesterday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Martin in New York at cmartin11@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net

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