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Scheuten and Ralos are Europe's latest victims of PV shake-up

The global PV shake-up has notched up two more European victims – Scheuten Solar, one of the only remaining Dutch PV manufacturers, and Ralos, a small but publicly-listed German project developer.

Scheuten Solar – a leading player in the building-integrated PV space, in addition to its 200MW of thin-film production capacity – says it has filed for suspension of payments to its creditors after being overwhelmed by the rapid decline in PV prices in the last 18 months.

The company – which is part of the broader Scheuten Group, a specialist in glass products – says it has been engaged in “serious efforts” since mid-2011 to attract investment from another PV company, but could not find a willing investor.

In spite of “continuous cost-reduction measures” Scheuten says its financial position has become untenable, due in large part to “several onerous supply contracts in our portfolio”.

“Because of all these unfortunate developments, Scheuten Solar is now entering into a situation where it can no longer serve its creditors,” the company says, adding that the glass division will be unaffected.

Founded in 2000, Venlo-based Scheuten Solar is one of the last vestiges of The Netherlands’ leading technological position within the PV sector in the 1990s, before it ceded its edge to neighbouring Germany.

In late 2009, Frans van den Heuvel – a co-founder of Scheuten Solar and the company’s chief executive at the time – toldRecharge that the Dutch government had allowed the country’s position in both the solar and wind sectors to slip away by failing to support local manufacturing.

The following year van den Heuvel left Scheuten amid disagreements over the company’s strategic direction, and went on to found Eindhoven-based smart-grid specialist ProxEnergy.

Separately, Frankfurt-listed Ralos New Energies announced it has filed for the opening of insolvency proceedings at a district court in the German state of Hesse.

As recently as last November Ralos unveiled a new strategic partnership with Schweizer Electronic, a specialist manufacturer of printed circuit boards, to develop PV arrays in China.

But ultimately the company did not have the size or financial muscle to diversify away from the shrinking European market quickly enough.

Ralos’ high-water mark came in 2010 – a boom year for European PV – when it hauled in an operating profit of €7.5m ($9.9m) against revenues of €124m, and boasted more than 150 employees. But in the first half of 2011 – the last period for which financial figures are available – its sales crumpled by more than 40%.

Scheuten and Ralos add to the ever-growing list of European companies that have been unable to cope with the powerful forces of consolidation that are reshaping the global PV business.

The biggest casualty to date has been Germany’s Solon, which filed for bankruptcy in December.

However, on 1 March Microsol – a PV manufacturer based in the United Arab Emirates – breathed new life into Solon by making a binding takeover offer. Microsol has pledged to retain more than 90% of Solon’s 500 workers.