Bosch nears French PV factory deal

Germany’s Robert Bosch is in “advanced” talks with an unnamed investor regarding its 150MW PV module factory in eastern France.

The revelation comes the same day that Bosch confirmed it has closed a deal that will see SolarWorld acquire its cell and module factory in Arnstadt, central Germany, along with 800 of the 1,400 workers employed there.

Another 250 workers in Arnstadt will be transferred to a new Bosch plant in the area that will be focused on automotive parts, Bosch said today.

In 2012 Bosch kicked off production at its plant in Vénissieux, France – the largest module factory in the country. Just a year later the company announced its exit from the PV business, having balked at the cost of building its proposed factory in Malaysia amid a glut of PV supplies globally.

Bosch said today that its plans for the French plant are to offer “a comparable solution to the one in Arnstadt”.

“Talks with a potential investor have now reached an advanced stage,” the company says.

Last month Aleo Solar – which is majority owned by Bosch – announced its brand and 350MW module plant in Prenzlau, Germany will be acquired by a consortium led by Taiwan’s Sunrise Global Solar Energy, a maker of PV cells.

Simply winding down Aleo altogether “would have been the far more favourable option” from a financial perspective, Bosch says. But instead it has chosen to swallow costs “running into seven figures [of euros]” to ensure that 200 or so Aleo workers are given jobs within the new company.

The terms of Bosch’s deal with SolarWorld have not been announced, although press reports suggest that Bosch effectively paid SolarWorld some €130m ($180m) to take the factory off its hands.

The Arnstadt factory will lift SolarWorld’s total production capacity to more than 1GW, the company says.