Solar photovoltaic (PV) mounting systems company Schletter South Africa is seeing positive growth in line with industry developments, with high hopes of renewed interest and demand in 2018.
The company was dogged by what it describes as “defamatory rumours” in 2017, the most prominent of which referred to an “imminent” takeover by former owner Ludwig Schletter and questions around the company’s financial stability.
However, Schletter group CEO Tom Graf notes that such rumours are “nonsense”, with Schletter ceasing to have any stake in the company as from the beginning of 2016, adding that it “will stay that way”.
These rumours stemmed from the company dismissing former South Africa MD Bernhard Suchland in May 2017, after he was found to be misusing his position, says Schletter group CFO Oliver Renzow. His actions were more severe than simply a breach of contract and being disloyal; they were, in fact, “criminal actions”, he adds. Since Suchland’s dismissal, Renzow says he has been continuously “planting rumours and badmouthing” the Schletter group, adding that the company is now pursuing legal action against him.
Meanwhile, Schletter’s financial standing has been buoyed “hugely” by a successful restructuring in 2016 – having closed its lossmaking, lightweight-metal division in Germany. This boosted Schletter’s earning power, resulting in continuous positive results. With restructuring now completed, Graf states that Schletter is expecting the full effect to “really kick in”.
Notwithstanding any negative impact of the rumours, Schletter South Africa MD Trevor DeVries says the company is “definitely growing”, noting that the company is keeping up with strong developments in solar PV installations and increasing interest in such systems on carports and rooftops.
In addition, he says demand for ground-mounted solar PV systems is also growing.
“We had a very promising start in 2018, signing contracts for over 13 MW in January alone,” says DeVries.
Schletter is also planning to launch its new solar PV tracking systems later in the year, following “great demand” for such systems in South Africa.
In terms of representation in sub-Saharan Africa, Graf says Schletter has a clear strategy to continue its international growth. “Our goal is to strengthen our position as one of the global leaders in solar mounting technology,” he says, pointing out that South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa countries are important cornerstones of this strategy. “Solar power is on the rise in Africa and the region has a huge potential.”