Against the background of the political environment and the margin pressure seen for standard PV business solutions, Meyer Burger achieved incoming orders of CHF 326.8 million in 2018 (2017: CHF 560.7 million). Larger orders in 2018 represented CHF 122 million (including a CHF 74 million Heterojunction/SWCT™ order in December 2018) compared to CHF 243 million in the previous year (also including a CHF 45 million Heterojunction order in October 2017). The total order backlog as at 31 December 2018 stood at CHF 240.5 million (31.12.2017: CHF 343.8 million).
Net sales reached CHF 407.0 million (2017: CHF 473.3 million). Compared to the previous year, the divestment of the Solar Systems business to 3S Solar Plus AG in June 2018 had a negative effect of about CHF 10.2 million, compensated by positive currency effects (mainly EUR) of MCHF 15.2 million. On a comparable basis, the continuing business declined by CHF 71.3 million or 15% in 2018.
Operating income after costs of products and services reached CHF 200.8 million (2017: CHF 194.8 million), reflecting a margin of 49.3% (2017: 41.2%).
Personnel expenses declined by CHF 9.8 million or 7% compared to the previous year and were CHF 125.9 million (2017: CHF 135.7 million), as Meyer Burger continued to flexibilise its organisation and to significantly reduce its fixed cost base. Other operating expenses amounted to CHF 48.8 million, including one-time charges of CHF 4.3 million in conjunction with the divestment of the Solar Systems business activities (2017: CHF 46.7 million). Without this one-time charge, other operating expenses would also have declined by about 5%.
EBITDA reached CHF 26.1 million in fiscal year 2018 (2017: CHF 12.4 million), resulting in an EBITDA margin of 6.4% (2017: margin of 2.6%). Depreciation and amortisation came to a total of CHF 24.3 million (2017: CHF 31.7 million) and have declined in line with expectations. The result at EBIT level amounted to CHF 1.8 million (2017: CHF -19.3 million).
The financial result, net, was CHF -9.8 million (2017: CHF -10.3 million). The extraordinary result amounted to CHF +0.7 million, mainly in conjunction with subsequent costs and effects of the change in estimates in connection with the discontinuation of production activities at the Thun site announced in 2017 (2017: CHF -48.8 million, mainly in conjunction with the divestment of DMT and related goodwill recycling as well as costs in relation to the reorganisation and discontinuation of manufacturing activities in Thun).
Tax expenses were CHF 52.1 million (2017: tax expenses of CHF 0.9 million). The tax expenses in 2018 include value adjustments on deferred tax assets in a total amount of CHF 49.0 million. Tax expenses in 2018 related to current income taxes on profits for the period were CHF -4.4 million and deferred income taxes CHF +1.3 million.
Due to the highly negative impact of the adjustments on deferred tax assets (CHF 49.0 million), the net loss for fiscal year 2018 was only slightly reduced to CHF -59.4 million (2017: CHF -79.3 million).
The balance sheet total declined compared to the previous year, mainly because of lower customer prepayments due to the reduced order intake and the value adjustments on deferred tax assets. The balance sheet amounted in total to CHF 349.2 million as at 31 December 2018 (31.12.2017: CHF 470.0 million). Cash and cash equivalents were CHF 89.8 million, inventories CHF 78.6 million, property, plant and equipment CHF 82.3 million, intangible assets CHF 11.9 million and deferred tax assets CHF 27.7 million.
Total liabilities came to CHF 167.4 million, of which trade payables were CHF 17.3 million, customer prepayments CHF 34.4 million, provisions CHF 14.1 million and financial liabilities CHF 55.6 million. The financial liabilities include a loan in an amount of CHF 30.0 million secured by mortgage certificates (on building in Thun), a value of CHF 25.3 million for the remaining convertible bonds that have not been converted yet and CHF 0.3 million of other loans.
Equity stood at CHF 181.7 million as at 31 December 2018 (31.12.2017: CHF 243.0 million). The equity ratio at year-end 2018 was 52.0% (31.12.2017: 51.7%).
Re-sized Executive Board
In line with the company's strategic focus on cell/module technologies, the Executive Board will be re-sized from five to four members. Daniel Lippuner, COO, will leave the Executive Board by the end of June 2019. The Board of Directors and the Executive Board would like to thank Daniel Lippuner for his achievements and contributions as well as his strong commitment to Meyer Burger and wish him all the best for his future.
Outlook for 2019
It is difficult to predict 2019, due to political uncertainties, such as trade tariffs, energy policies and new Chinese subsidy policies which have not yet been released. The signed divestment of the wafering business is expected to close within weeks and generates CHF 50 million proceeds.
Meyer Burger remains confident in relation to the development of the heterojunction and SmartWire Connection equipment business, which has been further validated by the order from and joint roadmap development with top-tier PV player REC Group, the cooperation with Oxford PV and the substantially increasing sales pipeline for HJT over the past months. Meyer Burger also sees the accelerating market interest in TOPCon as the next upgrade technology beyond PERC. Since its breakthrough at the end of 2018, Meyer Burger is experiencing increased customer interest in its CAiA® as the proprietary solution for TOPCon. On the back of China's anticipated new energy policies and demand from outside China, management expects 2019 to be the inflection point for these new technologies with attractive gross margins starting to replace PERC. Meyer Burger, as the leader in high efficiency cell and module technologies, is expected to be the main beneficiary of such advanced technology buys. Today's announced partnership with Oxford PV further underscores Meyer Burger's strategy to drive the PV technology roadmap.