Siemens pulls plug on last solar energy business

Saftey helmets are piled up for media representatives at the Siemens AG gas turbine factory hall in Berlin November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

MUNICH (Reuters) - German industrial conglomerate Siemens SIEGn.DE is shutting down the last of its solar energy businesses after it failed to find a buyer, the company said on Monday.

Confirming a report in German newspaper Handelsblatt, a spokesman for Siemens said the group would close Solel by early next year. The Israeli business has accumulated losses of around 1 billion euros ($1.33 billion) since Siemens bought it in 2009, including a write-off of the entire purchase price.

Siemens has spent seven months trying to sell Solel, which makes components used in solar-thermal power stations. Some 280 employees will be affected by the closure, most of them in Israel.

The cost will run into the mid-double digit millions of euros, according to Siemens.

Once a promising new field with strong growth rates, the solar energy industry is in sharp decline in Germany as Chinese manufacturers flood the global market with cheaper panels and components.

Several smaller German companies are struggling to survive the onslaught.

Industrial giant Siemens has already closed down its photovoltaic inverter business and pulled out of the Desertec solar energy project.

Its fellow conglomerate Bosch ROBG.UL is looking to sell or close its photovoltaic solar operations after losing 2.4 billion euros since 2008. It partly blames a drop in U.S. energy prices caused by a growing abundance of shale gas.

($1 = 0.7496 euros)

Reporting by Jens Hack; additional reporting by Christiaan Hetzner; editing by Tom Pfeiffer