UPDATE 3-Q-Cells CEO quits over record 2009 loss

Thu Mar 11, 2010 10:11am EST

Related Topics

* Milner says 2009 results led to loss of confidence

* Says it is in best interest of company to step down

* First major casualty in solar sector bloodbath

* Nedim Cen to take over as CEO, remains CFO

* Shares down 3.4 pct after falling as much as 5.4 pct (Adds quotes from new CEO; background; updates shares)

By Christoph Steitz

FRANKFURT, March 11 (Reuters) - Q-Cells Chief Executive Anton Milner quit on Thursday, taking responsibility for a record 2009 loss and paving the way for a quicker restructuring at the struggling solar cell maker.

"The dramatically weak 2009 figures have led to a huge loss of confidence, above all in the capital market," Milner, one of the four co-founders of Q-Cells QCEG.DE and a former McKinsey management consultant, said on Thursday.

"In this situation, it is in the best interest of the company, which I have been helping to set up, to step down from my post," he said.

Q-Cells shares fell 3.4 percent to 7.348 euros by 1409 GMT after plunging as much as 5.4 percent on the news, underperforming the FTSE cleantech index .FTET50 that stood 0.3 percent lower.

Analysts heavily criticised Q-Cells' performance last year, when it lost 1.36 billion euros ($1.84 billion) amid hefty writedowns and ceded its place as the world's biggest maker of solar cells to U.S. peer First Solar (FSLR.O).

Now the world's No.4 solar cell maker, Q-Cells has been battered by a crisis in the solar sector, hit by falling prices and industry overcapacities that led the company to slash about a fifth of its workforce. [ID:nLC338754]

Q-Cells also lost credibility in the market for slashing its 2009 sales outlook three times within less than six months.

Nedim Cen, who is taking on Milner's role in addition to his job as chief financial officer, said that the company was not planning to chop additional jobs. [ID:nWEB5203]

"With Nedim Cen, the company has named as CEO a professional who is experienced in restructuring measures," said SES Research analyst Karsten von Blumenthal, citing his experience as managing director at restructuring consultancy Alvarez & Marsal.

Cen became CFO at Q-Cells in the middle of last year, replacing Hartmut Schuening. [ID:nLH270806]

Cen said he would give more details about restructuring measures -- that also see Q-Cells streamlining its business and divesting non-core assets -- at its annual news conference on March 24. (Editing by David Cowell)

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