Conergy aims for first net profit in five years

HAMBURG Fri Feb 25, 2011 2:23pm GMT

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HAMBURG (Reuters) - Solar company Conergy plans to return to profit this year following a deep restructuring and a narrow escape from insolvency.

Once Europe's biggest solar company, Conergy agreed a debt-for-equity swap in December which would give control to hedge funds Sothic Capital and York.

Conergy's has cash suffered by focusing on too many areas in the renewable energy sector and it was also hit in late 2008 by massive price decreases for products, hitting sales and margins.

"We're planning for a net profit," Chief Financial Officer Sebastian Biedenkopf said at the company's extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on Friday, adding the company also expected sales to increase.

According to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, 2011 net profit is expected to be 7.2 million euros ($9.95 million), Conergy's first positive bottom line since 2006.

Conergy earlier this week posted a preliminary 2010 net loss of 42 million euros due to writedowns.

It refrained from giving an outlook for 2011, a critical year for the sector as the world's biggest market Germany is expected to shrink due to subsidy sector cuts.

German lawmakers a day earlier passed a law cutting solar power subsidies by up to 15 percent from this summer, six months earlier than originally planned, forcing Conergy along with industry peers such as Q-Cells and SolarWorld to expand abroad.

Should shareholders agree to the measure Conergy's debt-for-equity swap, the company's capital stock would be reduced by 88 percent while fresh equity of as much as 188 million euros would be raised, reducing its debt pile to about 135 million euros from a current 323 million.

"Such a debt level ... opens up the possibility of actively pursuing strategic options such as cooperations or joint ventures again in order to benefit from future growth opportunities," Biedenkopf said.

He said he expected business to pick up in the spring after a typically weak start to the financial year, when cold weather make it harder to install solar modules on roofs.

"Even though the beginning of the year was rather muted -- which was not unexpected -- we expect the market and our business to revive in the spring."

(Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Erica Billingham and David Cowell)