CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-Applied Materials to shift solar wafer manufacturing to Asia

Thu May 10, 2012 10:44am EDT

May 10 (Reuters) - Applied Materials Inc will restructure its environmental solutions business as it grapples with lower demand for equipment used for making solar cells.

The world's largest chip fabrication equipment maker will relocate its solar wafer manufacturing facilities to Asia from Cheseaux, Switzerland, it said in a regulatory filing on Thursday.

A global supply glut of solar panels has pressured margins, forcing companies to cut costs as prices fall.

Applied Materials said it expects to record pre-tax charges between $70 million and $100 million, or 4 cents to 6 cents per share, over the next 12 to 18 months related to the restructuring, which will affect about 250 employees globally.

The restructuring comes almost a year after the company announced its $4.9 billion acquisition of Varian Semiconductor, which was expected to help it corner a larger share in the solar market.

The environmental solutions segment, which manufactures equipment for fabricating solar cells and Light Emitting Diodes, recorded $1.68 billion, or 17 percent, of Applied's new orders for fiscal 2011. But orders have dried up since. The segment reported $33 million in new orders for the last quarter - down about 62 percent.

Applied Materials shares, which traded above $50 in mid-2000, closed at $11.08 on Wednesday on the Nasdaq.

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