GT Solar gains orders, files lawsuit against ARC Energy

Sapphire crystal-growth furnace manufacturer has filed a lawsuit against rival ARC Energy and has also reported more orders from Taiwan and China. In further sapphire-related news, Rubicon’s revenue increase 29% sequentially.

GT Solar International, Inc. (NASDAQ: SOLR), a supplier of manufacturing equipment including furnaces for sapphire-crystal growth, has filed a lawsuit against a rival manufacturer.

The lawsuit was filed against Advanced RenewableEnergy Company, LLC (ARC Energy), as well as Kedar Gupta, ARC Energy’s Chief Executive Officer and Chandra Khattak, an ARC Energy employee, for the misappropriation of trade secrets relating to sapphire crystallization processes and equipment.

It was filed by two GT Solar subsidiaries — GT Crystal Systems, LLC and GT Solar Hong Kong Ltd —in the Hillsborough County Superior Court (Southern District) in New Hampshire.

The complaint alleges that ARC Energy and the named individuals misappropriated trade secrets relating to GT Crystal Systems’ technology for manufacturing sapphire crystals, as a means of entering the sapphire crystallization equipment business. The complaint further alleges civil conspiracy, unfair competition, breach of contract and interference with contractual relations.

“We have an obligation to our shareholders to be diligent about protecting our intellectual property,” said Hoil Kim, GT Solar’s General Counsel. “When we believe our intellectual property has been compromised, we will take the necessary action to protect our rights.”

GT Solar receives $91 million in orders

In related news, Merrimack, NH-based GT Solar has received three new orders totaling $91 million for its advanced sapphire crystallization furnaces (ASF).

Two of the orders are from customers in Taiwan; Alpha Crystal Technology, a new customer, and Tera Xtal, who last week announced a sapphire-material purchase agreement with GT Solar. The third order comes from a new customer in China, the Lingyang Group.

“These new orders continue a very robust order rate for our ASF furnaces,” said Tom Gutierrez, GT Solar’s president and CEO. “The interest shown by new market entrants and existing sapphire producers for our ASF systems has surpassed our expectations and is a testament to the confidence customers have for our proven ability to quickly ramp to high volume, low-cost manufacturing with leading-edge crystal growth technology to meet the market demand for high-quality sapphire material.”

GT Solar’s crystallization process technology and global support resources offer customers a path to productive and profitable sapphire manufacturing operations with high levels of throughput and a greater return on their investment.

Strong results for Rubicon

GT Solar’s success in selling its growth equipment is helping to establish companies that could soon compete effectively with established sapphire-wafer manufacturers such as Russia’s Monocrystal, or US-based Rubicon Technology, Inc.

Last week, Rubicon (NASDAQ: RBCN) said that its revenue for the quarter ended March 31, 2011 was $38 million, up 29 percent sequentially. The gross margin was 63 percent, the operating margin was 53 percent and the diluted earnings per share increased $0.16 sequentially to $0.80.

Revenue growth was driven by “robust demand from the LED market” and the company is “continuing to add capacity in order to serve this rapidly growing market.” Raja Parvez, President and CEO, said: “Our customer base continues to grow and we are aggressively adding capacity to meet their needs.”

The company expects to see continued strong demand in the second quarter of 2011, resulting in revenue increasing to between $40 million and $43 million. “We have projected overall substrate pricing in the second quarter to be slightly lower than first quarter pricing due to some reduction in the price of two-inch core products,” said William Weissman, Rubicon’s Chief Financial Officer.

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