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Applied Materials And The Solar Industry

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Analysis of EES business unit of Applied materials, involved in the solar business.

Analysis of EES business unit of Applied materials, involved in the solar business.


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  • 1. STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT AND BUSINESS POLICYAPPLIED MATERIALS Corporate and the solar cell businessThis document aims to present an overview about the Applied materials’ business unit involved in the solar cell business, from the management team, the market positioning and competition perspective. The business unit name is Energy and Environmental Solutions (EES). 2010From Giovanni Pivettato Prof. Frank Rydzewski03/06/20107174205443110165775355772717542513661011088316589403171825<br />SUMMARY<br />Company overview<br /> Financial information<br /> Important headlines<br /> Recent stock price history<br /> Key members of the executive team<br /> Corporate Strategy Triangle<br /> Company direction/strategy<br />Thin film<br />C-Si<br /> Product line/segment analysis<br />Competitive forces analysis<br />Threat of New Entrants <br /> Determinants of Buyer Power<br /> Threat of Substitute products<br /> Supplier Power<br />Competitors Rivalry<br />Value chain<br />Positioning strategy<br />Core assets<br />Global Intent and Positioning<br />Corporate governance<br />Solar technology in principle. Explanatory video<br />Company overview<br />Applied Materials (AMAT) has been in the business from 40 years and primarily has been involved in manufacturing equipments for integrated circuits. Since 2006 it approached the solar power business space and overall the company employs about 14.000 people spread over 18 countries. Headquarter is in Santa Clara, California. The company is made up of four business units (BUs), Silicon System Group (SSG), Applied Global Services (AGS), Display and Energy and Environmental Solutions (EES). The latter is tied to the Display BU because the thin film application is a technological spin off of the former one. <br />I would like to make this line about EES which is very important in understanding my analysis and how I did approach it. The solar and energy business unit is involved in massive R&D to promote mainly the thin film technology therefore they do not market thin film directly but develop the technology and machines able to deliver to customers high throughput and product energy yield.<br />Financial information of EES and Corporate figures<br />The picture below highlights the main figures about fiscal year 2009 and it stands out the growth of solar energy business irrespective of the difficulties due by the economic downturn. Governments slow down feed in tariffs for solar panels installations.<br />The financial loss is related to investments (cash out) and not stemming from poor planning. Year 2009 has been a year where AMAT has undertaken a massive restructuring program aimed to improve operational efficiency across all the BUs.<br />Corporate-wise year 2009 has been horrible compared to the year 2008. However recovery signals emerge and this is confirmed by the outlook and Q2 financial figures. <br />Revenue <br />Revenue of $2.29 billion was up 24.2% sequentially and 125.0% year over year. The year-over-year increase was reflective of the turnaround in the capital equipment market and particularly, the company’s exposure to the memory segment, which should grow in leaps and bounds this year.<br /> <br />Revenue by Segment<br />Silicon Systems (SSG) remains the largest segment, with a 61% revenue share. Segment revenue increased 44.7% sequentially and 440.0% year over year. The increase from the year-ago quarter is largely attributable to more favorable comps, since the second quarter of 2009 was severely impacted by the recession. However, Applied Material’s advanced technologies enabled it to gain market share exiting the recession. The etch product line was particularly strong, with second quarter sales at higher levels than the four quarters of 2009 combined.<br />Additionally, the acquisition of Semitool placed the company in a leadership position in the advanced packaging segment, which is currently expected to outgrow the overall equipment market. Most of the current strength is being driven by memory customers, as they transition to more advanced processes and products and also see very strong demand at end customers. The scarcity of products is also resulting in steady DRAM and NAND prices, driving memory manufacturers and foundries to expand capacity, which should bring further growth in this segment.<br /> <br />The second largest segment was Applied Global Services (AGS), which generated 20% of total revenue. Segment revenue increased 7.0% sequentially and 42.9% year over year. Strength in spares sales, especially with respect to customer delivery goals drove the increase in the last quarter.<br /> <br />The Display segment was very strong, growing 104.5% sequentially and 221.4% from the year-ago quarter to 12% of total revenue. The robust growth in the last quarter was due to the ever-growing demand for LCD TVs and notebooks, especially in China. With industry-wide utilization rates at around 95%, equipment spending is very high (projected by management to grow 70% this year over last). Capacity additions by the existing customers in Korea , Taiwan and Japan , as well as prospective customers building fabs in China are expected to boost results going forward.<br />Energy and Environmental Systems (EES) was the smallest segment with a 7% revenue share, representing sequential and year-over-year declines of 48.3% and 53.5%, respectively. The segment saw mixed results in the last quarter, with solar photovoltaic equipment installations increasing rapidly.<br />Applied Materials is well-positioned in China, which is experiencing strong demand. Management expects over half of 2010 production to come out of China, so the company’s position in the country is a positive for the next few quarters. However, while crystalline silicon equipment continues to show signs of growth, the outlook for the segment is dampened by softness in the thin film category.<br />Softer demand, more financing challenges of customers and the bankruptcy of one of the largest customers are impacting this business (SunFilm AG). There are also concerns regarding overcapacity of the solar segment, currency issues and future incentives in Europe. Segment performance this year will be lower than management’s previous expectations.  <br /> Important headlines<br />This week, ENN, one of our key customers and one of China’s largest developers of clean energy announced they won the bid to supply 5.7m2 tandem junction silicon thin film modules for China’s first utility-scale PV power plant based on any thin-film technology (a-Si, CdTe, CIGS). This project is being sponsored by China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group (CECEP), which plans to build a 5MW PV power plant in Inner Mongolia as the first phase of a 100MW project plan.<br />The CECEP project is a significant validation: one of the largest energy players in China is taking a solutions approach to deliver lowest cost of electricity. They evaluated multiple technologies and ENN came out on top because of SunFab's better field performance (energy harvest) and installation benefits (BOS).<br />Bad News for Applied Materials' SunFab Department:SunFilm Declares Bankruptcy $AMAT<br />“2010 won't be remembered as the good old days in the SunFab department at Applied Materials.<br />SunFilm, an Applied customer based in Germany, has filed for insolvency in the district court in Dresden. The bankruptcy will affect 300 employees who had been on reduced shifts since the end of 2009. The current market conditions and fears that the feed-in tariff will be reduced by the German government by July 1 prompted investors to stop financial support, said SunFilm….”<br />Is the Applied Materials Sunfab Group in Trouble? $AMAT<br />“We received a communication from someone claiming to be an Applied Materials employee who attended a group meeting this week called by AMAT CEO Mike Splinter to discuss the future of Applied's SunFab amorphous silicon group. Mark LaPedus of EETimes spoke with the source at Applied Materials.  We are still in the process of confirming the source's veracity, but LaPedus tells us he's pretty sure it's an Applied employee and he covers Applied closely. According to the source: " Mr. Splinter called a group meeting to discuss the future of the solar group. He stated that " We have already given you $500 million dollars to develop this technology, now we will not give you anymore unless you give AMAT something. That something is 10% efficiency….." <br />Market Applauds AMAT Considering an a-Si Exit<br />Goldman Sachs: AMAT needs to maintain “openmindedness about exiting the thin-film solar business.<br />“Two weeks ago we reported on rumors and speculation that Applied Materials might look to scale back or even sell its group that makes equipment for amorphous silicon solar panels. Applied declined to comment on the rumors and emphasized that the company will invest more into the amorphous market. Despite Applied's protestations, we suggested that the SunFab a-Si tool -- essentially a factory in a box -- has a cost structure inferior to c-Si, CdTe or even CIGS, for that matter.  We suggested that a reasonable business case could be made for AMAT to abandon the a-Si SunFab business entirely. It would appear people are listening.  Like folks at Goldman Sachs….”<br />Underwriters Laboratories Announces Applied Materials’ SunFab Line Modules First to Meet Master Certification Program Requirements for the Solar Industry<br />“NORTHBROOK, Ill.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a world leader in safety testing and certification, announced today that photovoltaic modules produced by an Applied Materials SunFab Thin Film Line™ are the first to qualify for UL’s Master Certification Program for the solar industry. The program, introduced in 2009, is an enhanced service offering with streamlined testing and certification procedures intended to help photovoltaic (PV) module and production equipment manufacturers get products to market faster…..”<br />Applied Materials’ Next-Generation IEC-Certified SunFab Module Technology Cuts Customers’ Cost of Manufacturing<br />“SANTA CLARA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Applied Materials, Inc. announced today that it has significantly lowered the cost for customers to manufacture solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on its SunFab™ Thin Film Line using its next-generation module technology. Executing on its aggressive cost-cutting roadmap, Applied has leveraged economies of scale with leading suppliers and has introduced key process efficiencies that reduce the cost of materials by 22%. In addition, SunFab panels using these new materials and processes have received IEC* certification for aperture area conversion efficiencies of up to 9.7%, enabling customers to advance panel performance to this level without requiring additional certification….”<br />Applied Materials and China New Energy Leader CECEP to Collaborate on Advancing Solar PV<br />China’s First Utility-Scale Thin Film Solar Farm Will Use 5MW of SunFab 5.7m2 Panels<br />“BEIJING--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Applied Materials, Inc. and China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group (CECEP), a leading new energy company in China, today announced that they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to explore projects for accelerating the development and deployment of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology. The non-binding MOU forms a framework for Applied Materials and CECEP to work together on a range of activities to further CECEP’s solar PV industry strategy and roadmap…..”<br />Applied Materials Sees Strong Demand for Esatto Double Print Technology for Manufacturing Higher Efficiency, Lower Cost Solar Cells<br />“SHANGHAI--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Applied Materials, Inc. today announced at the SNEC 2010 PV Power Expo* that its Esatto Technology™ is expected to be used in more than 2 gigawatts of annual cell manufacturing capacity in the next few months at customer sites in China, Taiwan and Europe. Customers have demonstrated 0.46% absolute cell efficiency gains with Esatto Technology, and up to a 14% reduction in consumption of silver printing paste. This combination of higher efficiency and reduced material expense is projected to lower manufacturing cost by over 3 cents-per-watt and deliver a return on investment in as little as 8 months…..”<br />Applied Materials Acquires the Assets of Advent Solar<br />SANTA CLARA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Applied Materials, Inc., the leading supplier of equipment and services to the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry, announced today that it has acquired substantially all the assets, including the intellectual property, of Advent Solar, Inc. for an undisclosed cash amount. Advent Solar is a developer of advanced technology for crystalline silicon (c-Si) PVs. This acquisition is expected to complement Applied’s portfolio of solar PV technologies and enhance its leadership in the c-Si equipment market.<br />Advent Solar has pioneered several innovations for producing c-Si cells and modules, including technology for streamlining module assembly processes and advanced efficiency device architectures. The company, founded in 2002, is headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico…..”<br /> Recent stock price history<br />In the chart below is shown the comparison between AMAT, S&P500 and NASDAQ indexes. We can see that AMAT pattern follows the market trend with a β equal to 0.99. The chart shows the impact of financial crisis on Q2 2009 for AMAT and the stock exchange as a whole and the subsequent steady recovery from that moment onward. <br />Key members of the executive team<br />Mike Splinter Mike Splinter has been president and chief executive officer of Applied Materials since 2003 and chairman of the board of directors since 2009.Splinter is a 30-year veteran of the semiconductor industry and has led Applied Materials to record revenue and profits during his tenure. Under his leadership, the company is helping drive global adoption of solar power by enabling a true inflection point in the cost-per-watt of solar energy.Prior to joining Applied Materials, Splinter was an executive at Intel Corporation where he held a number of positions in his 20 years at the company, including executive vice president and director of Sales and Marketing and executive vice president and general manager of the Technology and Manufacturing Group.Splinter began his career at Rockwell International in the firm’s Electronics Research Center. During his tenure, he became manager of the company’s Semiconductor Fabrication Operations and was awarded two patents. Author of numerous papers and articles, Splinter earned both bachelor of science and master of science degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.George Davis George Davis is executive vice president and chief financial officer (CFO) of Applied Materials, Inc., the global leader in Nanomanufacturing Technology solutions for the semiconductor, flat panel display and photovoltaic solar industries.Davis was named CFO in November 2006 after serving as head of Applied Materials' Corporate Business Development group, where he was responsible for merger and acquisition activities, strategic planning, and management of the Company's venture investments. Davis joined Applied Materials in 1999 as corporate treasurer, leading worldwide treasury operations while managing investments, tax, financial risk management and trade and export matters.Prior to joining Applied Materials, Davis served as vice president of finance, Europe, Middle East and Africa for Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), where he was chief financial officer for ARCO's operations throughout the region.Davis received his undergraduate degree in economics and political science from Claremont McKenna College and his master's in business administration from the University of California, Los Angeles.Mark Pinto Dr. Mark R. Pinto is an executive vice president at Applied Materials, Inc., serving both as the corporate technology officer (CTO) and as the general manager of the Energy and Environmental Solutions (EES) and Display systems businesses. Based in China, Dr. Pinto focuses on growing the Company’s global solar and display businesses. Dr. Pinto joined Applied as a senior vice president in January 2004 and initiated the Company’s efforts in solar and solid-state lighting, leading to the formation of EES in August of 2007, where he has since served as general manager. He previously also had responsibilities for the Display business from 2004-2007. nder Dr. Pinto’s leadership the Company introduced the SunFab™ Thin Film Production Line, honored with the Wall Street Journal’s 2008 Technology Innovation Award, while growing EES revenues from $20M in fiscal 2006 to over $1B in fiscal 2009 and becoming the leading supplier of PV manufacturing equipment including both thin film and crystalline silicon applications.Prior to joining Applied, Dr. Pinto spent 19 years with the research division of Bell Laboratories and later the Lucent Microelectronics group where he was involved in R&D and management of IC technology, optoelectronics and network product design. He was named a Bell Labs Fellow, the company’s highest technical honor. In 2010, he was elected into the National Academy of Engineering for his contributions to modeling and manufacturing technologies for semiconductor devices, and in 2008, he was the recipient of the IEEE’s prestigious J.J. Ebers award.Charles GayDr. Charlie Gay was named president of Applied Solar and chairman of the Applied Solar Council at Applied Materials, Inc. in 2009. As president of Applied Solar, Dr. Gay is responsible for positioning Applied and the Company’s solar efforts with important stakeholders in the industry, technical community and particularly governments around the world. As chairman of the Applied Solar Council, Dr. Gay leads a cross-company forum to assure cohesiveness on solar-related initiatives and strategy related to technology, and market development. An industry veteran with over 30 years of experience in the solar industry, Dr. Gay joined Applied in 2006 as corporate vice president, general manager of the Solar Business Group. Dr. Gay began his career in 1975 designing solar power system components for communications satellites at Spectrolab, Inc. and later joined ARCO Solar, where he established the research and development program and led the commercialization of single crystal silicon and thin film technologies. In 1990, Dr. Gay became president and chief operating officer of Siemens Solar Industries and from 1994 to 1997, he served as director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the world’s leading laboratory for energy efficiency and renewable energy research and technology. In 1997, Dr. Gay served as president and chief executive officer of ASE Americas, Inc., and in 2001 became chairman of the advisory board at SunPower Corporation. Dr. Gay has a doctorate degree in physical chemistry from the University of California, Riverside. He holds numerous patents for solar cell and module construction and is the recipient of the Gold Medal for Achievement from the World Renewable Energy Congress.<br /> Corporate strategy triangle<br />Company direction/strategy<br />Strategies for PV systems are basically two and they aim to push their two different products, the Thin film application (a-Si) and the Crystallized Silicon (c-Si).<br />Thin film<br />The objective is to create a new 5.7 m2 standard produced at the lowest cost possible thanks to the scalability of the production and the nature of the product. In fact, the material used in thin film apps is about three times less in quantity than material required in c-Si wafer. Currently there is a pilot production line in Xian and there was one in Germany. Situation in Germany is on hold position because Sunfilm Ag just filed for insolvency. They are trying to find new investors. Insolvency is mostly due by market conditions and government stop to feed in tariffs. AMAT and EES aim to hit the 10% efficiency whereas they are actually at 9.1 %. From their plan, this is expected to be achieved by Q3 2010.<br />c-Si<br />The lowered costs for raw materials are pushing forward this application. We are actually into a stage of oversupply and Silicon vendors have to lower costs. Many Si wafer users are renegotiating the agreements because market conditions are very different compared to Q1 2009. AMAT aims to improve production efficiency for this product and for such reason they took over Diamond wires material technologies company. With 45 years experience they can bring into the company the needed knowledge to achieve the improvements planned. <br />Product line/Segment analysis<br /> The picture above shows how EES intends to market the machineries able to manufacture that products. c-Si products are best suited for residential and commercial roof tops while a-Si (Thin film) suits BIPV (building integrated photovoltaics) and power plants. <br />From decades the crystalline silicon is used to make PV solar panels and they have shown excellent reliability and an efficiency over the 20% (ratio between energy received from the sun and electrical conversion). c-Si solar cells are made from silicon " wafers," which may have either single-crystalline (also called mono-crystalline) or multi-crystalline (also called poly-crystalline) molecular structures. The solar cell is made by adding electrically conductive elements to the silicon wafer (" doping" ) and coating with thin layers of specialized materials. Because the silicon wafer is a large part of the cost, it is critical to reduce the amount of silicon by using thinner wafers to drive down cost per watt.<br />1501140472440s<br />Click twice on the blackboard to play video<br />Thin film PV is a fast-growing technology for solar that uses only about 1/100th of the amount of silicon per watt of electricity produced compared with crystalline silicon, resulting in reduced manufacturing costs and lower cost-per-watt. Thin film technologies are ideally suited for large-scale applications such as utility scale solar farms and commercial rooftops, where space is not a constrain.<br />290 kW power plant100 kW power facility700 kW power facility<br />Combination of low cost, long term reliability and performance make this choice natural. <br />SunFab is the world’s first and only production line capable of manufacturing 5.7m2 thin film panels. The large size of these panels drives installation efficiencies to significantly reduce system cost. Both single and tandem junction panels produced on the SunFab line are IEC certified; this certification enables SunFab customers to accelerate their own IEC testing process.<br />This is the milestone for what is called FAB2FARM business model which aims to create jobs and provide low cost energy. First of all the production cost will decrease significantly thanks to the technology and process involved. Looking the picture below, is clear that less work stations along the process drive costs down.<br />s527685-518160In thin film deposition processes like those used in the flat panel display and solar industries, many incremental costs depend on the number of panels passing through the line, not the size of the panel. Larger 5.7 panels thus cost less per unit of area and can drive module production costs below $1/Wp by 2010. 24250653176905Still more savings accrue when BOS costs are considered. Costs such as cabling, junction boxes, support brackets, and installation labor all depend on the number of panels installed. For example, a 20 MW solar farm would require just 35,000 full-size 5.7 panels, compared to approximately 230,000 conventional size panels.<br />Strategic for the FAB2FARM business model, is the relation that AMAT will be able to establish with utilities companies. <br />Competitive forces analysis<br />2.1Threat of New EntrantsEconomies of ScaleProduct differentiationGovernment policies2.4 Supplier PowerAvailability of Substitute inputsBuyer’s switching cost to other input2.2 Determinants of Buyer PowerProduct differentiationSwitching costs to use other products Buyers’ volume2.3 Threat of Substitute productsRelative price of substituteRelative quality of substitute2.5 Competitors RivalryNumber of competitorsSize of competitorsIndustry Growth rate<br />Threat of New Entrants<br /> Economies of scale<br />GP is an economic “environment” where the internal and external conditions of the applications of the PV technology bring the cost (price) of PV electricity within the range of cost (price) of electricity generated by other and more conventional sources of energy for any specific “consumer”.In the last years the main players in the PV industry are working hard to pursue what we could define as the industry mantra, the GRID PARITY (GP). <br />In order to achieve that the economy of scale is fundamental because cutting cost leads to a lower market price which makes the PV solution more attractive. Therefore since the day # 1, whoever is intentioned to enter this market has to invest a huge amount of money in to assets, production process and R&D. However this is not sufficient because they have to coexist with a long term strategy regarding the product mix where to invest the money. <br />The goal of machineries producers for this industry have to efficiency, high tech standards and automation. <br /> <br /> Product differentiation<br />Two categories of PV cells are used in most of today's commercial PV modules: crystalline silicon and thin film. The crystalline silicon category, called first-generation PV, includes monocrystalline and multicrystalline PV cells, which are the most efficient of the mainstream PV technologies and accounted for about 84% of PV produced in 2008 (Bartlett et al. 2009). These cells produce electricity via crystalline silicon semiconductor material derived from highly refined polysilicon feedstock. Monocrystalline cells, made of single silicon crystals, are more efficient than multicrystalline cells but are more expensive to manufacture. <br />The thin-film category, called second-generation PV, includes PV cells that produce electricity via extremely thin layers of semiconductor material made of amorphous silicon (a-Si), copper indium diselenide (CIS), copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS), or cadmium telluride (CdTe). Another PV cell technology (also second generation) is the multijunction PV cell. Multijunction cells use multiple layers of semiconductor material (from the group III and V elements of the periodic table of chemical elements) to absorb and convert more of the solar spectrum into electricity than is converted by single-junction cells. Combined with light-concentrating optics and sophisticated sun-tracking systems, these cells have demonstrated the highest sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiencies of any PV technologies, in excess of 40%. <br />Various emerging technologies, known as third-generation PV, could become viable commercial options in the future, either by achieving very high efficiency or very low cost. Examples include dye-sensitized and organic PV cells, which have demonstrated relatively low efficiencies to date but offer the potential for substantial manufacturing cost reductions. <br />The efficiencies of all PV cell types have improved over the past several decades, as illustrated in the Figure below, which shows the best research-cell efficiencies from 1975 to 2008. The highest-efficiency research cell shown is a multijunction concentrator at 41.6% efficiency. Other research-cell efficiencies illustrated in the figure range from 20% to almost 28% for crystalline silicon cells, 12% to almost 20% for thin film, and about 5% and to 11% for the emerging PV technologies organic cells and dye-sensitized cells, respectively.<br /> Government policies<br />The PV business is strongly dependant from feed in tariffs (FIT) and the current economic downturn is likely to bring governments from reducing incentives. This will slow down investments because the return of investment comes down and cost of capital will increase making this business more risky and attracting less investors. Europe is still the market # 1 for this business and in July both Germany and Spain (worldwide market leader and the second market in Europe) will disclose their policies for the next year. This situation is refraining the market from recovery. <br />The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA or “bailout bill”) became law on October 3, 2008. It contains tax incentives designed to encourage individuals and businesses to invest in renewable energy, including 8-year extensions of the business and residential solar investment tax credits (ITCs). <br />The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA or “stimulus bill”) was signed into law on February 17, 2009, with an estimated $787 billion overall in tax incentives and spending programs. Many ARRA provisions support solar energy.<br />With the implementation of the new RES (Renewable Energy Sources) Directive, the ball is in the hands of the 27EU Member States. EPIA has been focusing a large part of its cooperation on national associations by providing information on the consequences at national level and providing tools to national associations to influence the process of implementation of the Directive in their country. In particular, each EU country is obliged to provide a detailed Renewable Energy Action Plan to the EC by 30 June 2010. These action plans will have to provide information on how each country intends to reach its national renewable energy target by 2020. In particular, it will indicate the share of each technology within the energy portfolio.<br /> Determinants of Buyer Power<br /> Product differentiation<br />The PV market is still dominated by crystallized Silicon having about the 86% of share, whereas the thin film technology has the remaining 14% (5% a-Si, 8% CdTe, and 1% other thin films) and the leaders are all US companies. The buyer has therefore the possibility to choose between two main technologies and the offer is wide and large especially now where demand dropped and Silicon vendors are into a situation of oversupply. In 2008 the situation was exactly the opposite, in fact the capacity to refine Silicon (99,999999% purity required) was far below demand.<br />However the choice is strongly related to the installation site and FIT involved. For example in France, there are good incentives for BIPV (Building integrated photovoltaic) where flexible material would be required and this is not the case of crystallized silicon. <br />Market is actually unbalanced toward the buyer who has ample choice and real bargain power. <br /> Switching costs to use other products <br />Products change if the PV user is a utility company, normal company which want to lower the energy bill, investing money into an asset or private person. The first one can decide to generate energy using other renewable energy systems and the cost would change significantly (see picture below) where we can see that PV is still in the premium range even if price is dropping over a 8% annually. Of course the choice is related to the quality and availability of the energy source, hence availability of wind, solar energy and so forth. <br />Normal company and private person would decide on the basis of energy bill amount, investment needed and tax incentives, therefore governments policies still influence the choice because grid parity is still not at reach of hand at least in many countries. Currently only California and Japan seem to have reached the GP.<br />Buyers’ volume<br />In this industry volume is measured in kW installed and according to the size of the system, the buyer might get a better deal which could be tied to an higher discount or premium service free of charge. Demand is currently lower than supply therefore it is right to think that this is the best moment to invest in such energy, having the cash available.<br /> Relative price of substitute<br /> Relative price of substitute<br />It is still the GP making the difference together with the availability of the energy source. This must be assessed case by case and within a contest of external forces like FIT. <br />2.3.2. Relative quality of substitute<br />Efficiency is the key performance indicator and there are thermodynamic limits to the solar cells which prevent them to ever reach the 100 % efficiency. In the figure below is shown where the major energy losses occur and they just consider the solar panel. Other losses stem from the electrical connection, and the major loss incur in the inverter which turn the DC currect generated into AC current, suitable for grid connection.<br />Substitutes have the same problem of inefficiency however the quality does not play a key role in the choice but again the price per kW paid and this is also measured by the Balance of System (BOS) representing all other system components, among which electrical installation, inverters, support structure and building integration. <br />The split of the costs are shown in the picture below and BOS accounts for about the 30 % of the system installation.<br />Supplier Power<br /> Availability of Substitute inputs<br />Main industry player is still the silicon in the form of polycrystalline. This resource is abundant and available, while the only constraint is just the production capacity because it is required a high material purity (99,999999%). <br />Producing solar-grade poly silicon is complex and capital intensive. Quartz is heated in the presence of a carbon source to produce liquid silicon, which is refined and allowed to solidify to become what is known as metallurgical-grade silicon (MG-Si), with an average purity of 98.5% (Bradford 2008). MG-Si is a relatively abundant and inexpensive commodity worldwide. However, it must be processed further to achieve solar-grade purity using one of several processes, of which three were most important in 2008: <br />• Siemens process (chemical deposition) <br />• Fluidized bed reactor (FBR) process (resulting in granular silicon) <br />• Upgraded MG-Si (UMG-Si) processes. <br />Impurities into MG-Si would prevent the efficiency and the correct flow of electrons within a p-n junction frame.<br />The Siemens process accounted for about 78% and FBR for about 16% of polysilicon produced in 2008, with UMG-Si processes accounting for most of the rest. The Siemens process is the most widely used, followed by FBR.<br />Pictures above show that a monopoly is not likely to happen in this business even if US have the lead and also the actual economic situation brought to an over capacity of silicon production and for this reason prices come down.<br />Substitutes are CIGS(copper–indium/ gallium–diselenide) and CdTe (cadmium–telluride) solar cells but their availability and cost don’t allow them to threat the silicon position in the industry. <br /> Buyer’s switching cost to other input<br />Market trend is still focused on Silicon but under the amorphous state. This is the one used in the thin film technology and the main reason is the quantity of silicon used which is about 100 times less compared to crystallized silicon. <br />This will help manufacturers of solar cells to market the products at lower price getting closer to GP.<br />Competitors Rivalry<br />Number of competitors<br />Size of competitors<br />The main players are about ten and emerging markets like China helped some of them to increase their market share against the old players like Q cells and Sharp which both have lost about 3 % market share. <br />Chinese companies account for 27% worldwide market share and they are growing fast due to the market potential and growth rate. <br />Comparing the worldwide cell production against the US it is clear that this market is still dominated by regional factors and the fortune of each company is strongly related to the market share in the country of origin. For example Q-Cells is worldwide leader because Germany is still accounted for the 50% of the Watts installed worldwide (about 5,4 GW). PV German and Spanish policy have then brought the Europe to be the main worldwide market.AMAT does not appear in thio sranking because it is still a new player and have currently 70 MW installed and about 425 MW in the pipeline for 2010 and 2011.<br />This last schematic shows when the companies enter into the PV business and is updated to 2006. <br />AMAT, OERLIKON and ULVAC are also three turnkey providers of thin film technology products and they have contracted about 25 thin film companies.<br />Industry Growth rate<br />Irrespective of the temporary slow down in the PV market, analyst at AMAT are confident about a steady growth of PV installations worldwide.<br />Many other research studies go in the same direction and history data are consistent with such statement and in fact expected compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) for thin film capacity between 2007 and 2010 is 83%, crystalline 32% and global PV demand hit an amazing 41%. <br />Thin film technology is therefore moving from a niche market position and try to cannibalize some market share of the crystallized silicon.<br />This growth rate is accompanied by a decrease of silicon price as shown in the graph below.<br />The CAGR trend is also shown from a study made by EuPD research, a brand of HOENER research and consulting group GmbH.<br />Value chain<br />AMAT business unit involved in the PV solar business (EES) has started in 2006 with revenues of $ 20M and by the end of 2009 revenues where over the $ 1B, becoming the leading supplier of PV manufacturing equipment including both thin film and crystalline silicon applications.<br />This outstanding growth has been possible only through an efficient coordination of all the players involved in the VALUE CHAIN. <br />For EES the support activities play an important role and especially Technology Development is pivotal for the whole BU strategy, in fact there would not be primary activities without that one serving as flywheel promoting innovation. Remember the second shred of article I have posted at page 10 where rumors said that CEO Mark Splinter pushed for a 10 % efficiency of the thin film technology in balance to the $ 500M spent so far by AMAT to push ahead this business unit. <br />The other technology development is related to their turnkey solution they are marketing which is the SunFab™, the automated line producing thin film panles 5,7 m2 size. A strong competitive advantage is to be able to increase throughput and reduce scrap in order to lower down the price per part and get to the GP sooner than competitors. In the next video, it is shown the progress of this production line which has been already sold to more than 10 customers.<br />9572013408218 <br />s<br />The other main support activities is about human resources for such a high tech industry highly specialized personnel is required. The last recession, obliged AMAT to cut about 1.200 positions which is roughly the 10% of their work force. However the main cuts occurred as usual to low level employees and the ratio between employees in USA and oversees did not change (45% in USA and 55% abroad). <br /> <br />In the primary activities, marketing and sales is most prominent because it is able to leverage the R&D topics and clinch deals with many companies especially in their main market which is Asia-Pacific. Tha last deal occurred in China they won the bid to supply 5.7 m2 tandem junction (double layer) silicon thin film modules for China’s first utility-scale PV power plant based on any thin-film technology (a-Si, CdTe, CIGS). This project is being sponsored by China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group (CECEP), which plans to build a 5MW PV power plant in Inner Mongolia as the first phase of a 100MW project plan.<br />Through their business unit EES, Applied material, has been named named number one solar photovoltaic equipment supplier and now the EES business unit accounts for the 23% in revenues of the corporate. This percentage includes also the crystalline Silicon technologies which is a segment where AMAT is investing heavily with the acquisition of Advent Solar <br />However, there are contradictory rumors about the real efficiency and appeal of the thin film business, since many executives involved in the SunFab™ program left the company, an example is Tom Lacey, the GM of the SunFab™ amorphous equipment line. <br />Both from the R&D and Marketing and sales standpoints, OERLIKON SOLAR has became very aggressive and this is proven by the prize they have won in 2009. With this new thin film production line (LED screen spin off) they have been able to improve the cycle time of over the 30% with an efficiency 9.6%. They worked on it since the year 2000. <br />Oerlikon Solar is headquartered in Trubbach, Switzerland and has over 750 employees in<br />13 locations worldwide and maintains sales and service centers in the USA, Europe, China,<br />Korea, Taiwan and Japan.<br />They are heavily promoting their Micromorph® tandem-junction and and Oerlikon Solar is today’s world leader in silicon-based thin film solar technology and end-to-end manufacturing solutions with ten established customers in operation or worldwide ramp up representing 600 MWp of yearly production capacity, enough to power 480,000 households.<br />About VLSI Research IncVLSI Research Inc is the leading provider of market research and economicanalysis on the technical, business, and economic aspects within nanotechnologyand related industries. The company is known for its unparalleled accuracy,innovation in market research, and its sharply focused insight into the rapidlychanging landscape of the industries covered. Its databases on manufacturing areused throughout the industry, and by government. VLSI Research’s primarydatabases and reports cover the semiconductor, flat panel display, PV cell andmodule manufacturing industries, and the market for critical subsystems andcomponents within these and associated high technology industries. <br />In marketing they are also very aggressive and they have announced on June 09th that VLSI listed it the #1 solar turnkey line supplier globally and this will boost their sales and market visibility even more. At the end of 2009 they signed an agreement with Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Clairvoyant teaming up with battery maker Xtreme Power in Kyle, Texas to build factories on former Ford plant in Wixom. Both companies plan to spend $725 million to buy the 320 acres from Ford and renovate it. Clairvoyant would pony up $250 million while Xtreme contribute the $475 million.<br />The Swiss company is set to provide a 90 MWp and Oerlikon's chief competitor, Applied Materials in Santa Clara, Calif., doesn't have a customer producing amorphous silicon thin films in the United States at the moment. <br />The undisputed first tier competitor is FIRST SOLAR which is planning for the next years an increase in production capacity to over 2 GW and research and development on the CdTe modules with an efficiency of about 11.1%. <br />Positioning strategy<br />EES business unit and AMAT are pursuing the cost leadership position and this is well stated in all their company press releases. As I have written earlier in this essay, the real competitors is the GP achievement and that’s what make this industry so aggressive on the costs side. Unfortunately I have not detailed companies data about cost allocation strategy in their different segments of their value chain because this would help me to better understand their strategy, however something can be found on the web and help me to draw up their analysis. The starting point in this analysis comes from the figures aside (percentages are not related to this case) where we can see the costs allocation for each “value” of the BU. In order to drive costs down, first of all the company has to understand the current cost structure and then act in order to cut only what does not add value to the company’s mission and to do so they have to work on all the value chain. Going back to EES they primary driver to drive costs down is related to the scalability of the business. Since overhead costs related to the investment in assets is quite high, they add capacity into the system in order to decrease the percentage of overheads for each product. We have not to forget that irrespective of this positioning, the industry is an high tech industry and expenditures in equipments is relevant. However capacity does not represent utilization of the resource therefore I guess that they are working hard also on that side. During their presentation they often make ample use of the concept of experience curve which is likely to be true especially when you launch pilot production lines and then day after day you see room for improvement. <br />What are competitors doing on this side? The same. Competitors are adding capacity to their systems which make this look like a sort of capacity production rush as everybody have seen this as to be the fastest way to reduce cost per Watt produced. Cost per watt is the metric used in this industry but since it is related to the efficiency of the product, beside the capacity improvements, it is very important improve product’s specifications and this lead to the R&D where cutting costs is possible when driven by a thorough understanding of the process. <br />Another way to add efficiency not to the product but into the system is see the linkages among players in the same value chain. AMAT has recognized this and in 2007 acquired BACCINI SpA, a leading Italian company specialized in manufacturing devices for inspecting Silicon wafers. The reason of this take over was probably gain knowledge into quality control devices in order to reduce production scraps. <br />In the figure on the left is shown the cost reduction road map presented at the analyst meeting 2010 and it is clear where there are focused. Output which means production improvements and module which is technological leadership. In the figure on the left is shown the achievements and goals for the next years in cost reduction and efficiency gain.<br />First solar recognized this vertical integration both backward and forward integration because into their web site, the logo on the right is displayed, the Product Life Management (PLM) logo. This is a meaningful image proving their attention to the whole cycle of the product and not just to its operation side which is normally what managers look at first when is time to cut costs or improve the process. Instead, this show their commitment in sharing information over all the value chain to meet the tighter specifications that industry requires day after day. <br />Interrelationships with other BUs is again fundamental for the low cost strategy because sharing assets, knowledge and buying power help to allocate costs to a broader base and push the innovation through fresh ideas coming from different experiences. <br />With Regard to ULVAC, I have no relevant information about their cost structure or strategy. <br />Core Assets<br />Since 2006 AMAT got involved in the solar business and since then, they increased the amount of assets recurring to acquisitions in order to gain competitive advantage against its primary competitors. This is due to what I have called earlier as the cost leadership rush. In fact when their expertise coming from their chip making or flat screen experience was not sufficient they just went shopping with the purpose of implementing know how in to strategic product development sectors. In particular, they tried to expand their competencies upstream their value chain in the sector of crystalline silicon.<br />They begun with HCT, a Swiss company specialized in manufacturing equipments for slicing ingots of Silicon. Thanks to their technology they could decrease the costs associated with the loss of material due to the KERF which is the material wasted during the cutting process. The smaller the better. HCT Diamond Squarer features fixed-abrasive diamond wire technology and can cut the cost of squaring silicon ingots by up to 30%. The new system cuts 2.8x faster than the conventional PWS squarer, resulting in 2.5x higher throughput for the same footprint and production capacity. At the same time, a s<br />30% drop in cost of ownership (COO) comes from reducing operational, maintenance and repair costs by half, and a 50% decrease in energy consumption per brick. Eliminating slurry from the cutting process results in cleaner, easier production, with no need for SiC/PEG management and disposal.<br />Another leap forward in chasing up this low cost strategy brought AMAT to take over BACCINI SpA, by the end of year 2007. This acquisition siphoned in AMAT the back end processing technology they needed to improve their silicon production and increase the throughput. This has been achieved using screen printing, laser edge isolation and test and sort technologies which have been embodied into the Applied Baccini Soft line system. <br />Probably the most important benefit that BACCINI has given to EES is the Esatto Technology, an integrated solution for high precision screen printing for the suite of Baccini’s back end processing systems. The Esatto Technology is designed to raise the efficiency of crystalline-silicon (c-Si) solar cells by enabling the fabrication of advanced contact structures. The first of several applications of the Esatto Technology is for double-printed metal line deposition where it has been shown to raise absolute cell efficiency by as much as 0.5%. It provides customers a cost-effective upgrade to their current and future Baccini back end systems with proven reliability and high repeatability.<br />Esatto Technology offers c-Si cell manufacturers a comprehensive solution that effectively integrates hardware, software, qualified consumables and production proven processes. The technology enables multiple layers of different materials to be overlaid with better than ±15 μm repeatability.<br />A key component of Esatto Technology is the high precision kit that is available for the both Soft Line and the Rotary Line.<br />The high precision kit features:<br />High resolution cameras<br />Custom illumination for each application<br />Sophisticated image processing software<br />Advanced process control<br />Extra fine mechanics for superior durability<br />It went the turn to SEMITOOLS, a leading company in packaging and treatments of single or batches of silicon wafer. The company is based in Montana which is apparently the only thing whoch make it to stand out from the “obvious” Silicon Valley companies. Apparently the acquisition was made to improve the capabilities of AMAT in the semiconductor sector. However AMAT was working hard with universities, to improve the efficiency of c-Si developing low-cost porous silicon processes having the ability to capture more light and therefore produce higher conversion efficiencies. It went that in 2007, Semitools sold its first porous silicon tool to c-Si solar cell producer, which was used for further development of the process in a real world environment. However, when acquisition went public, Applied kept saying that it was the work it had been doing with the company in the semiconductor packaging area and the migration to copper interconnects in the memory market that was at the core of its planned expansions. The lack of emphasis on the porous silicon IP that Semitool has developed may well be a way to avert attention now only for the company to work on perfecting this tool and processes to the point it believes it could have a new and important revenue stream in a quick turnaround, therefore allowing the company to make a bigger splash in the market at a later date. Knowing that the Raider platform is a production proven platform.<br />ADVENT SOLAR had been started by a number of ex-Intel Corp engineers and managers, many coming from Intel’s Albuquerque, New Mexico semiconductor facilities, where Advent was established in 2002.  The start-up had developed several innovative module assembly techniques that were designed to improve the overall conversion efficiency of the finished model as well as reduce manufacturing costs compared to conventional process steps. The company had in particular developed what it claimed was the PV industry’s first cell-to-module solar architecture – ‘Ventura Technology.’ <br />Emitter Wrap-Through (EWT): By eliminating the front grid, more sunlight becomes available for electrical conversion. EWT provides higher light capture and efficient distribution of energy to the backside contacts. The Ventura architecture combines the EWT back contact cell design with MMA to deliver a scalable, high output module platform.The Ventura Technology was said to design a platform-level design by combining Emitter-Wrap Through (EWT) back-contact cells with semiconductor device manufacturing methods, helping to eliminate efficiency losses inherent in string-ribbon processing to the final module power generation. Also by eliminating the front grid, more sunlight was made available for electrical conversion.The architecture provides higher cell-to-module efficiency, while using thinner silicon wafers to reduce costs.<br />Unfortunately, this company needed funds during the last year credit crisis and this made impossible for them to raise the money needed for such capital-intensive start up and have forced them to lay off people and choose to license their technology and related know how. The amount of money involved in the acquisition haven’t had been disclosed but it was absolutely a good deal for AMAT even if…… <br />“…I think that will really be 2011 before we see real meaningful sales from that technology. We need to finish up the development of the capability and then get it in to the marketplace. So, I think before we see meaningful output is 2011.” Mike Splinter, CEO<br />The above are all assets acquired by AMAT with the purpose of making its positioning in the solar cell business more prominent than ever. However another important asset for them is the SERVICE. They believe in the service as source of revenue and the prove is the existence of a business unit, AGS (Applied Global Service) devoted to it. About the solar cell business, the size is small but they hit multi year high value service agreement. In 2009 they scored a positive operating profit of $ 113M and key penetration in solar business which is expected to grow thanks to an increase of installed base system of 300mm silicon wafers, both for Semiconductor and solar business. The operating profit has been justified by three key factors: Supply chainEfficiencyPortfolio<br />Global Intent and Positioning<br />Along the years, EES business unit has gained market share and hit the 1 billion revenues. <br />This outstanding result comes from Applied Materials existing knowledge in the semiconductor industry where they are leaders and where they have proprietary technologies gained through ongoing introduction of new products and selective acquisitions. Another important step taken by Applied Material, has been the action they have taken in the sales area, where they split their centralized version of it and moved it across the business units. This action will bring accountability, focus and closer relationships with customers. <br />Supply chain control is well sustained by Mr. Flanagan (COO) who has the chance to look at the real scale of the company and then leverage on it versus vendors and buy at the lowest possible price. Therefore this company is not just aiming to be technology leader but also the cheaper supplier of such advance technologies. In order to meet customer needs and foster brand name and awareness especially in growing markets like China, India and Taiwan, just to mention the most important, the only business relationship they consider are selective joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries. I think those are the only viable ways that such a company can enter any market because it is too important for them to find partners having the right skills to represent them and not damage their brand name. <br />Particularly for the thin film technologies, EES has developed a turnkey solution, hence they integrated software, material technology and process into what has been called the SUNFAB™ which I explained earlier in this paper. The concept is to choose companies having the capabilities and financial resources to build the factory using EES proprietary technologies and then sell them to utilities companies or other companies involved in the construction/installation industry. The advantages of on-site factory comes primarily from low transportation cost and after sales assistance. The products itself has other remarkable advantages where the most important is manpower needed to install them, thanks to their size and then their low levelized cost of energy (LCOE). A bright example of such collaboration is Signet Solar Inc. (http://www.signetsolar.com), a US based company with German branch, manufacturing plant in Germany and sales representatives in Spain. <br />Supposedly, another goal is to bring at their side worldwide leaders in the PV business like Q-cells (the German manufacturer) but in my opinion it has to be seen more as competitor than partner since they are pushing CIGS (copper-indium-gallium-(di)selenide ) thin film technology and not amorphous Silicon as EES. <br /> <br />However, different markets lead them to apply different strategies. China is not just a huge market in terms of future sales, but also the country where solar panels manufacturing is going to replace Japan and then Europe as manufacturing country leaders. It is believed that more than 50% of worldwide production will be made in China in the next years. s<br />This is one of the reasons that have pushed years ago AMAT to set up a manufacturing facility in Xi’an (Shaanxi province) as pilot project in order to enhance their production capabilities and enhance their experience. This facility  comprises laboratory and office buildings covering more than 400,000 square feet and contains an entire Applied SunFab thin film manufacturing line and a complete crystalline silicon pilot process. They invested about $ 250M and employ about 300 people.  In addition to housing Applied’s state-of-the-art research into solar manufacturing techniques, customers and potential customers from around the world will be able to work side-by-side with their technologists to reduce their time to market and improve factory productivity and cell efficiency.<br />Direct competitors of EES like ULVAC or OERLIKON which are turnkey solution providers have the same strategy, thus joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries. The former has many branches in China and this is prove of their interest in such market (they represent almost the 50% of worldwide branches). Others are scattered across the world with a strong presence in the far east area (the company is Japanese). The latter instead has just the head quarter in Shanghai. <br />Corporate governance<br />Inside AMAT the Board of directors (Board) is made up of 12 members where Mike Splinter is Chairman, President and CEO and James C. Morgan is Chairman Emeritus. The latter has served as CEO of Applied Materials for nearly 30 years. <br />Then we have Willem P. Roelandts as Lead Indipendent Diretctor and Gerhard H. Parker as Ethics Ombudsman. <br />The Board is elected by the stockholders to oversee management and to assure that the long-term interests of the stockholders are being served. The Board is responsible for the oversight of Applied's business conducted by its employees, managers and officers under the direction of the Chief Executive Officer (" CEO" ). The Company's stockholders elect directors each year at the annual stockholder meeting. Based on the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee's recommendation, the Board will select nominees and recommend them for election by stockholders and fill any vacancies that may arise between annual stockholder meetings. The Board is committed to the principle that directors should be elected only if they receive the votes of a majority of the shares voted in an uncontested election.<br />The Board has established the following committees to assist the Board in discharging its responsibilities: <br />Audit (four members); <br />Corporate Governance and Nominating (four members); <br />Human Resources and Compensation (four members); <br />Investment (four members); <br />Stockholder Rights (three members); <br />Strategy (six members). <br />From time to time, the Board may form a new committee or disband an existing committee, depending upon the circumstances.<br />The Board reviews reports by management on the performance of the Company, its plans and prospects, as well as issues facing the Company, during its regularly scheduled meetings (typically four per year) and any special meetings. In addition to its general oversight of management, the Board also performs a number of specific functions, including:<br />reviewing, approving and overseeing fundamental financial and corporate strategies and major corporate actions;<br />reviewing and approving long-term strategic and business plans, overseeing execution and evaluating results of such plans;<br />nominating directors, reviewing the structure and operation of the Board and overseeing effective corporate governance;<br />assessing major risks facing the Company and reviewing options for their mitigation;<br />ensuring processes are in place for maintaining the integrity of the Company, including the integrity and transparency of its financial statements, compliance with laws and ethics, the integrity of relationships with customers and suppliers and relationships with other stakeholders; and<br />selecting the Company’s CEO, Chairman of the Board and Lead Independent Director.<br />The Board is also responsible for designating an independent director as the Lead Independent Director who chair the independent directors meetings without the presence of management or the non-independent directors at least twice a year during regularly scheduled Board meetings.<br />Regarding the committees meeting, the number, content, frequency, length and agenda will be determined by each committee in light of the authority delegated by the Board to the committee and below it is a table where main duties of each committee are highlighted. Occasionally they might hold meetings in conjunction with the board. <br />CommitteeDutiesAudit Oversees the financial reports and other financial information provided by the Company to its stockholders and others; Reviews the performance of the independent registered public accounting firm;aids the Board in its oversight of the Company's tax, legal, regulatory and ethical compliance, including oversight of the Ombudsman process as a procedure for receiving, retaining and treating complaints or concerns.Corporate Governance and NominatingAssists the Board in developing, maintaining and overseeing the Company's corporate governance guidelines; Oversees the composition, structure and evaluation of the Board and its committees; Assists the Board in identifying individuals qualified to be directors.Human Resources and CompensationOversees the Company's programs that foster employee and executive development and retention;Determines executive compensation;Oversees significant employee benefits programs;Approves the compensation of members of the Board.Investment Reviews and approves the Company’s major investments, including strategies for acquiring or divesting companies, real property, and other assets.Stockholder Rights Authorized to periodically review and make recommendations to the Board concerning the Company’s takeover defenses and takeover defense preparedness, the takeover environment, mergers and acquisitions activity, the duties of directors and officers in connection with evaluation of a proposed takeover.Strategy Reviews the Company’s long-term strategic goals, objectives and plans concerning existing and potential markets, technologies, products, services and business opportunities;Recommends changes;Evaluates strategies in an effort to effectively align and maximize the Company’s technological capabilities and product and service offerings with customers’ needs and market opportunities.<br /> <br />This model of governance has clearly some ups and downs in the sense that theoretically it gives the lead of the company only to the “business top gunners” and every year the shareholders have the possibility to ask their resignation if they don’t find satisfaction with the performance of one or some of them. However it is also true that stockholders’ desire is not binding pass through the corporate governance and nominee committee. Within 90 days from the vote, the board will disclose his decision followed by the recommendation of the committee. Therefore both stockholders’ vote and committee recommendation are not binding and leave the board to act freely from any imposition. Of course there is no free lunch and justification has to be sound and it will be published on press release. <br />However to prevent an overwhelming strong position of the board, the  the Audit, Corporate Governance and Nominating and Human Resources and Compensation Committees members consist solely of independent directors. In addition, the audit committee members must also satisfy additional independence requirements under SEC and Nasdaq rules. <br />Apparently this system looks perfect to avoid any misconduct from the board but ENRON and other scandals have demonstrated the opposite. When some board members, middle management and low level employees act for their interests, creating a cross level covenant, there is few that shareholders can do even if after that facts, the politicians come up with the SARBANE-OXLEY act of 2002. <br />Nevertheless, this board is performing in the best interest of shareholders and this is proved by the ISS (Institutional Shareholder Services) which evaluates the strengths, deficiencies, and risks of a company's corporate governance practices and board of directors on over 8,000 companies worldwide. The metric they use is CGQ® (Corporate Governance Quotient) and Applied Material has a CGQ as of Jun 1, 2010 better than 56.9% of S&P 500 companies and 87.5% of Semiconductors & Semiconductor Equipment companies.<br />Solar technology in principle. Explanatory video<br />Version of about 22 minutes from a High School teacher, introducing the class to physical and chemical principles behind PV technology. <br />6953252114550<br />s<br />