GTAT hiring of Calif. battery firm exec sparks speculation

GT Advanced Technologies has hired Dan Squiller, CEO of PowerGenix Corp., a California company that develops batteries for hybrid vehicles, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. But circumstances have prompted speculation that there may be more to the hiring.

Squiller is listed as the Merrimack-based company's president, PV/worldwide operations, on a July 5 SEC filing. The title is disclosed in paperwork accompanying GTAT's July 2 award of 746,269 restricted shares of stock to be vested over the next four years.

But as late as July 23, Squiller was still listed at the PowerGenix CEO on the California company's website. He also is still included in PowerGenix's phone directory, fueling some speculation on financial message boards that there is some kind of merger or other agreement pending between the companies, which have both been silent on the matter.

"There is going to be an announcement about my role very soon," Squiller told NHBR when reached through the PowerGenix switchboard while in China. "That's all I can say."

Squiller did note that the SEC requires other types of documents when a merger is involved, and there have been no such filings.

PowerGenix develops high power and low cost nickel-zinc batteries for hybrids, industrial products and stationary applications. Its website boasts that such batteries are smaller, lighter, cheaper and safer than lithium batteries.

The PV division that he now heads for GTAT produces photovoltaic crystals that are sliced up into wafers used to make the solar cells in various solar panels.

GTAT makes the furnaces that create the crystals, which had been the company's mainstay before it began to branch out beyond the solar industry a few years ago. The PV business has been in trouble internationally, thanks to a glut on the market, and last year only accounted for 39 percent of GT's revenue.

One of the areas in which GT wanted to get more involved was furnaces to make silicon carbon, which can be used to make power integrated circuits that could be used in electric and hybrid vehicles for greater efficiency.

Thus far, GT hasn't been involved in making hybrid batteries. However, CEO Tom Gutierrez once headed Invensys Power System, which did manufacture batteries. The same company employed Squiller as president before he headed PowerGenix in 2003.

Last month, Squiller announced PowerGenix inked a three-year joint venture with China City Construction Corp. to sell batteries in the automotive and other markets in China. Most of GTAT's largest customers are in China.

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