Opto Speed in Trouble

The Swiss optoelectronic module maker has gone bust, and ex-staff are tripping over each other to rescue it

August 14, 2003

2 Min Read
Opto Speed in Trouble

As if bankruptcy weren’t bad enough, some of the ex-staff of Switzerland’s Opto Speed Holdings SA are now tobogganing all over each other in their attempts to rescue the innovative developer of opto-electronic modules.

The saga started last month when the company’s two biggest investors, The Carlyle Group, and ABN AMRO, declined to stump up any more cash, according to Sabine Wetzel, until recently the company’s head of human resources.

Under Swiss law, this forced Opto’s Swiss subsidiary to file for bankruptcy immediately, because it couldn’t pay its staff. As a result, Opto Speed (Zurich) AG closed its doors on July 22, sending home its 40 employees, including Wetzel.

Since then, Opto’s German subsidiary, Opto Speed Deutschland GmbH, followed suit, filing for bankruptcy and making 20 more staff arbeitslos, according to Wetzel. This has yet to be announced officially, she says. Light Reading wasn’t able to confirm this with official sources, and calls to the Opto’s Darmstadt office went unanswered today.The Swiss authorities have published an official notice citing an article in the country’s bankruptcy law that appears to give creditors the authority to sell the assets of the company.

Creditors are scheduled to meet next week, on August 20, to review assets and liabilities of the company, choose a bankruptcy administrator, and select a creditors' committee, according to the official notice. They will also adopt a resolution of the valuation of "various assets" for which offers have already been made.

This could be a reference to plans that Wetzel started putting in place to resurrect the company and restore at least half of the jobs in the Swiss subsidiary. “There are existing customers who want to continue. There are existing suppliers who want to continue,” she says, adding that she’s also found a prospective buyer of the assets, Avalon Photonics Ltd., another Swiss optical components startup, and one that raised money fairly recently (see Avalon Photonics Raises $5.5M).

Wetzel’s plans, however, have hit a problem, because the ex-managers of Opto Speed’s two main product lines -- for photodiodes and superluminescent light emitting diodes (SLEDS) -- have each come up with alternative plans to create separate, smaller companies. If they succeed, the idea of resurrecting Opto Speed itself will be a non-starter, according to Wetzel.

The crunch could come at next Thursday’s creditors’ meeting.

Call out the St. Bernards!

— Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading

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