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10-05-2012 15:57:00

Applied Materials To Restructure Solar Business, Record Charges

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By Shara Tibken

Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Applied Materials Inc. (AMAT) said it plans to restructure its solar business to better cope with challenging conditions in that industry.

Applied Materials--the largest provider of machines used in making semiconductors, solar panels and displays--said it will record restructuring charges of $70 million to $100 million, or 4 cents to 6 cents a share, over the next 12 to 18 months, starting in the fiscal third quarter ending in July.

The charge includes severance costs for about 250 employee positions, inventory charges, fixed asset impairment charges, and costs for lease terminations. Applied Materials said the inventory charges of up to $15 million, or 1 cent a share, will be included in both its adjusted and unadjusted earnings. Applied Materials also expects as much as $55 million in cash expenditures under its plan.

Shares, down 26% over the past 12 months, rose 1% to $11.19 in recent trading.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company, best known for its semiconductor manufacturing equipment business, regularly experiences sharp boom-and-bust cycles triggered by fluctuations in supplies of chip and demand for them. The company has broadened its business to include tools used in making solar panels and displays used in computers and TVs. But supply gluts for manufacturers in those businesses have slowed plans to boost production capacity in the past year and have hurt Applied Materials' results.

The company in February reported a 77% decline in profit for the first fiscal quarter on revenue that slid 19%. The numbers were better than Applied Materials predicted, and it provided an upbeat forecast for the fiscal second quarter. However, it later forecast weaker-than-expected guidance for the fiscal year, which it blamed on its solar and display businesses.

Applied Materials in March said it would cut additional costs from its solar operations to counteract the weakness. The company at the time said it planned to lower its fiscal 2013 solar breakeven level, or the amount of revenue needed to be profitable, to $500 million from $800 million.

The company on Thursday said its restructuring steps will help it meet the breakeven point.

As part of the restructuring plan unveiled Thursday, Applied Materials said it will relocate manufacturing operations for is precision wafering system solar business to Asia from Cheseaux, Switzerland. PWS business operations and customer support functions will be relocated primarily to Treviso, Italy, and Xi'an, China--locations of other Applied Materials operations. PWS' headquarters and new product development will remain in Switzerland.

The company said the plan also includes "significant" reductions in development activities for the light-emitting diode equipment market.

-By Shara Tibken, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2189; shara.tibken@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 10, 2012 09:57 ET (13:57 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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