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What will become of the 81 employees of Systovi, a French manufacturer of solar panels victim of “Chinese dumping”?

Le Figaro Nantes.

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What will become of the 81 employees of Systovi, a French manufacturer of solar panels victim of “Chinese dumping”?

Le Figaro Nantes

Systovi, it's over. On Wednesday April 17, one of the last manufacturers of solar panels in France announced the cessation of its activities. The company based in Carquefou, near Nantes, did not receive a takeover offer, as the company's employees initially hoped. Mainly due to “the sudden acceleration of Chinese dumping since the summer of 2023”, director Paul Toulouse announced in mid-March that he would give himself one month to find a buyer. In vain.

“We had a lot of contact with potential buyers, some even pushed the investigations quite far and ultimately it did not result in any offers,” he declared to Le Figaro on Friday, two days after the liquidation declared by the commercial court with which he had no other choice but to file for bankruptcy. This weekend also marked the closure of the 4,000 square meter warehouse and the economic dismissal of the 81 employees the company had on that date.

“There was a lot of sadness because it is a human adventure. We fought together to create a meaningful sector. People were committed to the energy transition. This work was a way of reconciling their personal and professional commitment,” continues the disappointed manager. Today, its priority is for everyone to find a job that matches their desires. In addition to the industrial group CETIH, parent company of Systovi, which has locations in the area and elsewhere, Paul Toulouse “phoned all the companies in the industrial ecosystem” of the region. Systovi “also invites local companies to communicate currently available job offers,” the company wrote on April 17 in its press release.

“We were not surprised on Wednesday. We were more surprised the day we were told that the company had to look for a buyer for the conditions that we already knew. The price gap between us and the Chinese who sell at a loss was considerable,” regrets Geoffroy Nguetebe, who until then was a staff representative for the CFTC. “Two thirds of the employees were for liquidation. We couldn’t take this uncertainty any longer,” continues the former versatile production operator, who launched a survey among employees.

Although the company has closed its doors, it still carefully monitors the evolution of everyone's situation with “the Catalys listening firm, responsible for collecting everyone's opinions”. While welcoming the humanism of its director Paul Toulouse, with whom “things are going very well”, he remains confident. “Nantes is a fairly large employment area. There is no shortage of work in industry here.” Accustomed to versatility, the former maths teacher illustrates this with the example of a car: it is possible to drive different brands as long as you have the basics. For his part, he is thinking of retraining in artistic creation by becoming self-employed.

“Paradoxically, the solar industry is very dynamic,” points out Daniel Bour, president of the professional union in the solar energy sector Enerplan. But above all “in the downstream part, creation and development of power plants”. And therefore less on the niche that Systovi occupied, namely the manufacture of panels from cells purchased in China. However, “these are not the same jobs. When you come from industry, do you become a technician to go to a construction site and create power stations? It’s not that simple.” Also, “the projects are not specifically in Nantes, but rather in the east of France or in the south,” he observes. If France and, more generally, Europe are now looking for a strategy, “all these measures are a little late for Systovi”.

At the beginning of April, the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire announced a plan aimed at achieving 40% of solar panels “made in France” by 2030. The office of the Minister of Industry Roland Lescure has told AFP last week that the State would closely monitor the situation of employees and the future of Systovi's assets. “I have no resentment. I am especially sad to see this missed opportunity, sad to see that certain announcements are mainly symbolic, for the purpose of communication, rather than facts which help manufacturers,” concludes Paul Toulouse, director since 2022, and for whom to find a position n This is absolutely not the concern of the moment. He thinks as little about it as about the material, which will certainly be sold.

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