Applied Materials Buys Italian Solar Equipment Maker for $334M

appliedsolar.jpgBack in November of 2007, chip manufacturing company Applied Materials said it was planning to make yet another solar-related acquisition with Italy’s Baccini, a maker of metallization and testing equipment for photovoltaic solar cell production. The deal is now done, and the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip company said it spent $334 million.

Including the Baccini purchase, Applied’s solar acquisition investments total around $1 billion. Back in August, Applied completed a $483 million acquisition of Swiss solar wafer equipment company HCT Shaping Systems. Currently solar manufacturing machines are only a small part of Applied’s total business. Applied President and CEO Mike Splinter in September 2006 announced the company’s move into the PV equipment market, saying the company plans “to change the cost equation for solar power through adaptation of our existing technology…”

Analysts see the company’s solar foray as a promising area of growth. Mark Fitzgerald, analyst at Banc of America Securities, previously predicted that the company’s solar revenue could reach $1.2 billion in 2009. Applied is also spending money on solar through its venture capital arm, Applied Ventures, which has invested in several solar-related startups. Those include solar monitoring company Fat Spaniel, silicon solar wafer company Solaicx, and organic solar cell developers Plextronics.

Italian Baccini isn’t exactly a startup; the firm has been developing its solar cell processing line for 40 years, and will help Applied with its goal to reduce the cost of solar cell manufacturing, which could eventually help bring down the overall per-watt cost of solar power.