Tokyo Electron quits PV toolmaking

Tokyo Electron is quitting the PV production equipment sector, little more than a year after buying amorphous silicon (a-Si) thin-film specialist Oerlikon Solar.

The Japanese group said it will halt PV equipment-related operations at the end of March, leaving only a residual team in place to support already-sold kit.

Tokyo Electron took a big punt on the prospects for a-Si thin-film when it bought Swiss-based Oerlikon in a deal worth CFh250m ($270m).

Many in the solar industry had questioned the technology’s long-term prospects, and today Tokyo Electron said it was pulling the plug “given continually weak revenues and as we do not expect to recoup our investment further out in this business environment.”

There may be job cuts at the Swiss end of its operation, the company said.

Tokyo Electron’s main business is production equipment for semiconductors – in which it is among the world’s top three – and it is currently in the throes of an agreed takeover by Applied Materials, the market-leader in that area.

US-based Applied Materials itself has a small interest in the PV sector – but exited its own a-Si business in 2010.