Wacker cuts hours of staff at solar panel components plant

FRANKFURT Mon Oct 15, 2012 6:48am EDT

FRANKFURT Oct 15 (Reuters) - Germany's Wacker Chemie has introduced shorter working hours at its polysilicon unit, as the solar sector it supplies continues to grapple with Asian competition, industry overcapacity and falling government subsidies.

Up to 700 employees at its plant in Burghausen dealing with polysilicon production, an essential component of solar cells, will be affected from Oct. 1, 2012 until March 31, 2013, a spokesman for the world's No.2 maker of polysilicon said on Monday.

About 1,800 of the plant's total 10,000 employees work in its production out of the group's global staff of 17,200.

Wacker shares were down 3.2 percent at 1047 GMT, underperforming the German midcap index, which was up 0.8 percent.

In 2011, Wacker Chemie's polysilicon unit accounted for about 30 percent of group sales and about two-thirds of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), with an EBITDA margin of more than 50 percent.

Wacker scrapped its sales outlook in July for the year, blaming ongoing consolidation in the solar sector that has forced many of its clients out of business. Second-quarter EBITDA came in at 241 million euros ($312.50 million).

Wacker Chemie's main rivals in the production of polysilicon include Hemlock Semiconductor, a joint venture between Dow Corning, Shin-Etsu Handotai and Mitsubishi Materials, as well as Korean OCI Co Ltd and China's GCL-Poly Energy Holdings.

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