Oerlikon in talks over Solar technology supply deal

ZURICH, May 20 (Reuters) - Swiss technology group Oerlikon OERL.VX may sign a 700 million Swiss franc supply deal with Rusnano, the Russian nanotechnology agency, an Oerlikon spokesman said on Wednesday.

Rusnano and Russian holding company Renova, which holds a controlling stake in Oerlikon as well as in the Swiss engineering company Sulzer SUN.S, are planning on investing in a new solar cell production company due to reach full capacity in the last quarter of 2011.

“We are currently negotiating with Rusnano,” an Oerlikon spokesman said.

If the deal is completed, Oerlikon would supply the thin-film technology for annual production of 1 million solar cells, substantially exceeding last year’s production volume of around 700,000 cells.

The deal would represent the first major order from Russia following Renova chief Viktor Vekselberg’s takeover of a majority stake in the company last year.

Although solar cell production only makes up 13 percent of Oerlikon’s sales, the solar business is the best performing segment, with high growth potential.

Oerlikon makes a range of products from coatings used in Formula One racing cars to textiles.

The highly leveraged group, which has forecast a loss this year, last week announced it was in talks with potential buyers of its textile and drive systems units as it seeks to focus on its more profitable businesses. [ID:nLC39176]

After posting a full-year loss of 422 million francs in 2008 and announcing job cuts in response to the economic downturn, the group is now seeking to cut debt and boost its balance sheet through fresh capital and asset sales, Chairman Vladimir Kuznetsov said at the time. (Reporting by Josie Cox, editing by Will Waterman)