GTAT finishes the year with a big loss

GT Advanced Technologies finished the year with an awful fourth quarter.

GT Advanced Technologies finished the year with an awful fourth quarter, losing $159 million, or $1.34 a share, and ending fiscal year with a loss of $63 million, or 53 cents a share, the company announced Wednesday after the markets closed.

Although much of the loss was due to a massive write-off of goodwill and majoring restructuring costs, the Nashua-based company – which had been profitable ever since it went public in 2008 — would have lost $18 million, even without those one-time expenses.

GTAT had already warned about the upcoming losses due to the trouble facing solar cell manufacturers, particularly in Asia. GTAT sells equipment to make the solar cells – a business that crashed so badly that it accounted for less than 7 percent of its $734 million in revenue. It also makes the equipment that produces the polysilicon material that solar cells are made of – that segment of the business brought in $461 million of 2012 revenue.

Nevertheless, annual revenue for 2012 was a $150 million falloff from 2011. The revenue drop-off was so severe in the solar cell business that the company wrote off $57 million in goodwill. It also is writing down $71.8 million of inventory related to poor solar market conditions.

The company also recorded $30.3 million of asset impairment charges related to the idling of a facility in St. Louis, Mo., that it acquired in order to get the “next generation,” more efficient solar technology.

GTAT said it hopes that its effort to diversify away from solar will help it in the future, particularly in the sapphire business it acquired in 2010.

Indeed, some $716.5 million of its $1.25 billion backlog at the end of the year will be in that sector.

“Our Q4 results came in largely as expected as we continue to face challenging conditions in the solar and LED markets,” said Tom Gutierrez, president and CEO. “We have taken steps to resize the business and manage our balance sheet and believe 2013 will be a year during which we continue to strengthen our foundation and further diversify the business.

The company’s stock fell by 21 cents a share, to $2.86, by the end of the day Thursday. – BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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