U.S. fracking helped kill off German solar firms: Bosch

FRANKFURT Sun Mar 31, 2013 6:53pm IST

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Bosch, one of the world's largest auto parts suppliers, blames the U.S. fracking boom in shale gas for hurting demand for energy-efficient green technologies, its chairman told a German newspaper.

The Stuttgart-based company recently decided to discontinue its photovoltaic solar energy activities at the cost of roughly 3,000 jobs - due largely, but not entirely, to a glut in capacity built up in China.

"Photovoltaic is going through a unique transition. But you cannot entirely dismiss that the use of energy-efficient technologies came under pressure through fracking in the United States," Bosch Chairman Franz Fehrenbach said in the Sunday weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

"The longer availability of fossil fuels naturally has an effect on the (economic) calculation of resource-friendly technologies," he explained.

Fehrenbach swapped his job as chief executive for that of chairman last July, handing over day-to-day control of the company to Volkmar Denner, who became only the seventh CEO to run Bosch since it was founded in 1886.

According to Fehrenbach, last year's 60 gigawatt supply of solar modules around the world was double the amount of global demand, triggering a 40 percent price drop that pushed all manufacturers of photovoltaic systems heavily into the red.

"After this destructive phase there won't likely be a crystalline photovoltaic manufacturer left in Europe that is competitive," the Bosch chairman added.

After first entering the market in 2008 Bosch decided last week to pull out of the solar energy business - an unusual strategic reversal for a company that rarely is forced to eliminate jobs.

The business generated a loss of 1 billion euros ($1.28 billion) in 2012 and its value was written down to zero.

(Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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