GTAT reports big backlog drop, earnings dip

But the firm did have some good news for investors: a deal to supply Motorola with large sapphire screens

Nashua-based GT Advanced Technologies is tying its future growth more to the sapphire business than solar, helping to offset investor jitters caused by a $356 million slash in backlog and another quarterly loss.

Meanwhile, the firm’s top five executives took a pay cut during the company’s transition to a nine-month fiscal year in 2012, though the executives still ended up earning a total of $12.8 million in compensation.

GTAT did have some good news to offer investors in a conference call with analysts: a deal to supply Motorola with large sapphire screens for point-of-scale scanners used at retail checkout lines – what the company said was a “beachhead” that would hopefully demonstrate to its manufacturing customers that sapphire can be used for more than LED lighting.

Still, GTAT reported another loss in the first quarter of 2013 — $18.7 million, or 7 cents a share. A year earlier, the firm posted a $79.1 million profit, but in the last quarter of 2012 GTAT lost $159 million.

Revenue for the first quarter was $57.8 million, down from $353.9 million in the year-ago quarter.

The company also announced its backlog has been cut by $356 million to $851 million. The reason, said Tom Gutierrez, president and CEO, was primarily due to a single large solar manufacturer not following through on a contract. While the contract is still enforceable, “we believe these orders are not likely to convert to sales in the foreseeable future,” he said in the conference call.

Gutierrez said the remaining backlog is “quite solid and of very high quality,” including $351.6 million in sapphire-related deals.

GTAT — formerly GT Solar – started out by selling equipment to make material for use by solar manufacturers. But as the solar market crashed, the company has sort to diversify, including the acquisition of a company in Salem, Mass., that produces sapphire crystal for the high-efficiency LED market.

In 2013, the company projected that solar will be less than 50 percent of the company’s business.

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