As expected, German Heliocentris Energy Solutions filed for bankruptcy at the beginning of October 2016. After there had been a delay of several days before the required quarterly figures were finally published, an ad hoc notification was sent out on Oct. 11, 2016, saying that the management board of the Berlin-based fuel cell manufacturer would open bankruptcy proceedings before the Berlin-Charlottenburg municipal court for all group companies headquartered in Germany. The reasons for the business’s inability to pay its debts were said to be the loss in revenue, which had already been reported at the end of August 2016, as well as an insufficient amount of time to acquire enough fresh capital. The message also stated that the many old liabilities in particular had created headaches for the company along the way.
Prior to the bankruptcy filing, the shares had been in free fall, losing more than 90% of their value in one year compared to their price on the issue date. Some funds had divested all of their shares in the business and the company’s international activities had not picked up as expected. There had also been some changes in management (see Heliocentris – Profile of a Listed Fuel Cell Company). This summer, www.aktiencheck.de recommended: “Just sell your shares and do it fast.” The web portal referenced Vorstandswoche.de, where experts had warned “of this share since the company went public and had warned again against buying shares before the capital increase [in May 2015; editor’s note].”
Aktiencheck believes that Ayad Abul-Ella deserves much of the blame for the company’s failure: “This CEO has been known to not having met any targets for years.” His salary was said to have been raised from EUR 180,000 to around EUR 230,000 as late as 2015, an increase of almost 30% compared to the previous year – plus a bonus payment of EUR 100,000.
Now, the team of company founder Henrik Colell intends to take matters into their own hands in order to restructure the business. There is said to be no outside intervention to ensure sustainable restructuring and financing, a plan that the municipal court approved on Oct. 14.
Joachim Voigt-Salus was appointed interim trustee for Heliocentris Energy Solutions as well as the German subsidiaries Heliocentris Academia, Heliocentris Industry and Heliocentris Fuel Cell Solutions. “Home Power Solutions won’t be affected by the bankruptcy filing. Heliocentris only has an investment in the company and otherwise, HPS has its own capital,” Colell replied when asked about the situation by H2-international in mid-October. There have also been no bankruptcy filings for foreign subsidiaries.
Even though company operations will continue for now and Heliocentris vowed to complete outstanding customer orders, its bankruptcy will have an impact on the entire fuel cell industry. The business, which was founded in 1995 as a specialist in fuel cell teaching materials, employed 200 staff by the most recent count and was revered as one of the pioneers of the fuel cell community. Over the years, however, the Berlin-based business has increasingly favored industrial applications over offerings to academics, focusing especially on the energy management of off-grid supply systems in the Middle East and Asia. However, there has been no word on what will become of the BOS Digital Radio Network sites at which fuel cell-based emergency power systems were planned to be installed.