SunEdison (formerly MEMC Electronic Materials) doesn't waver
from its devotion to wafers. The company supplies silicon wafers
ranging in size from 100mm to 300mm -- four inches to one foot --
in diameter. In addition to standard prime polished wafers,
SunEdison makes epitaxial wafers (which have an added layer of
single-crystal silicon) for advanced chips, as well as lower-grade
wafers used to test chip-making equipment and production lines. The
company also makes solar wafers and sells solar-grade polysilicon,
both of which go into making solar cells. Its solar materials
division develops solar energy projects in North America and
Europe. Customers outside the US account for nearly two-thirds of
The US represents SunEdison's largest market, accounting for
more nearly 30% of sales, followed by Taiwan (16%) and Canada
(10%). The company saw heavy year-over-year declines in its Asian
markets (including an 85% drop in China), while the US and Canada
grew about 65% and nearly 140%, respectively.
SunEdison has manufacturing and administrative facilities in
Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and the
Sales and Marketing
The company markets its wafers through a direct sales force and
a global network of customer service centers. The duration of its
sales agreements is generally one year or less. SunEdison's solar
energy projects are sold directly, as well as through local and
regional channel partners. Its wafer customers include virtually
all of the leading semiconductor device makers and foundries.
SunEdison's solar energy customers include enterprises,
governments, and utilities.
After two years of solid revenue growth (following a drop in
2009 because of the difficult economic environment), SunEdison
reported a 7% decline in sales in 2012 to $2.5 billion. The
continued downturn in the semiconductor industry resulted in lower
average selling prices across all wafer diameters. The company's
solar energy segment also suffered, with an increase in solar
energy systems sales (due to utility projects in North
America) unable to offset a steep decline in solar wafer sales
as SunEdison is shifting the focus of its solar wafer business to
serve its internal needs.
The company also saw a net loss in 2012, but the $151 million loss
was significantly better than the $1.5 billion loss from 2011 when
SunEdison was impacted by a downturn in the solar industry and
substantial restructuring and impairment charges.
To combat its financial struggles, the company initiated a
reorganization in late 2011 that included workforce reductions of
about 20% (some 1,400 employees), facility closings and reductions
in capacity, and cutting back on joint venture activities. These
actions continued into 2012.
MEMC has seen a growth trend in its solar materials business and
it plans to continue that growth through expansion of project
development into more countries in Europe and Asia, as well as in
South Africa and South America.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Expansion at home, though, wasn't off the table, as in 2011
SunEdison bought the US subsidiary of global solar power plant
developer Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV), in a deal worth up to
about $235 million. SunEdison hopes the addition will help it gain
traction toward being a dominant US utility player.
In 2010 SunEdison bought Solaicx, a manufacturer of solar-grade
silicon wafers and ingots, to give it expanded capacity to
manufacture wafers and ingots using less expensive monocrystalline
silicon, which can be used to bring down the cost of solar cells
and modules. Later that year, SunEdison also entered into a module
production agreement intended to lower costs further and strengthen
its supply chain for integrated solar projects.