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GT Advanced COO Blames Apple's Strict Sapphire Contract Terms for Bankruptcy Filing
Shared by Fortune, Squiller's affidavit [PDF] delves further into the contractual obligations outlined in GT's agreement with Apple, which led to huge losses of money as the contract was highly favorable to Apple.
It was known that the terms of the contract prevented GT Advanced from selling its sapphire to customers other than Apple, but as it turns out, Apple also had a vast amount of control over GT's sapphire production. For example, GT was not able to modify equipment, specifications, or the manufacturing process without express consent from Apple, but Apple could modify the terms at any point. GT was also expected to fulfill any of Apple's purchase orders at Apple's demand, with severe penalties for failing to do so.
GTAT must accept and fulfill any purchase order placed by Apple on the date selected by Apple. If there is any delay, GTAT must either use expedited shipping (at its own cost) or purchase substitute goods (at its own cost). If GTAT's delivery is late, GTAT must pay $320,000 per boule of sapphire (and $77 per millimeter of sapphire material) as liquidated damages to Apple. To put this figure in perspective, a boule has a cost of less than $20,000. Apple, however, has the right, without compensating GTAT, to cancel a purchase order in whole or in part at any time and reschedule a delivery date at any time.Apple was also in charge of the Mesa, Arizona facility that it acquired for GT Advanced, and delays at the facility cut into GT's production time. Apple reportedly decided it was too expensive to provide backup power for the furnaces and on multiple occasions, power interruptions led to delays and loss of sapphire boules. GT Advanced was also not in charge of the sapphire cutting tools that it received, and in his affidavit, the COO says that the tools did not "meet their performance and reliability specifications."
The contractual obligations ultimately resulted in GT's inability to meet "cost and production targets" for reasons that it says were "beyond its control." Issues in scaling its technology to create large 262kg sapphire boules to meet Apple's specifications also led to the bankruptcy filing.
The key to making the transaction profitable for both sides was the production of a sufficient number of 262kg boules of sapphire crystal meeting the specifications required by Apple. [...]Though Apple and GT Advanced have reached an agreement to dissolve their partnership, the two will remain in contact as GT Advanced continues its research work focused on producing larger sapphire boules. The two companies will meet quarterly to discuss GT's progress on that front, with collaboration still possible if both sides agree to move forward.
Unfortunately, the production of 262kg boules of sapphire could not be accomplished within the time frames the parties had agreed, and was more expensive than anticipated. These problems and difficulties resulted in a liquidity crisis at GTAT, which led to the commencement of these chapter 11 cases"
GT Advanced has already begun winding down operations at the Mesa, Arizona sapphire plant, wrapping up sapphire boule production, decommissioning furnaces, and laying off employees. The plant is expected to shut down on December 31.