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What Exactly Happened to Ampegon?

Updates from a company in transition

The author is sales and business development manager for Ampegon Power Electronics AG.

TURGI, Switzerland — Following this year’s IBC exhibition in Amsterdam in September it became clear that, despite our best efforts, many in the radio community are still in the dark about what has recently happened at Ampegon; a long-term supplier of transmitters and equipment to shortwave and medium-wave broadcasters worldwide.

Simon Keens

Rumors have abounded regarding the health of the company and we hope today to clarify the situation here

Late in 2018, Ampegon’s former investment capital owners decided to sell Ampegon. This had been planned since 2012 when they acquired the company following the restructuring of the Thomson group. Since you never completely fuel a car that you’re just about to sell, Ampegon was instructed to minimize further unnecessary investment in marketing, which is why customer visits and conference attendance fell to a historic low. This left the company to focus solely on completing projects prior to transfer of ownership.

In the end, the process of selling the company took longer than anticipated, meaning that some projects were delayed and left unfinished at the point of sale. Additionally, the former owners proceeded to sell the four parts of Ampegon separately: The shortwave transmitter, power supply and control system section in Switzerland, the antenna division in Ludwigshafen, the former Transradio medium-wave transmitter factory based in Berlin, and the industrial pulsed power supply specialists in Dortmund, all in Germany. This necessitated a break-up of the group, with assets from each company being sold off individually. It inevitably caused disruption to normal operations.

The shortwave transmitter business, along with the staff, tools, and stock material has now been bought by a new Swiss company: Ampegon Power Electronics AG. This company was formed specifically to complete the transaction with Ampegon AG, and took over all IP and technology rights, branding (including the name and logo of Ampegon), website and contact details.

Telephone numbers and email addresses for contacts in sales, engineering and purchasing are essentially unchanged. Today (at time of writing) we understand that Ampegon AG exists only as a company on paper, with practically all staff moved over to Ampegon Power Electronics AG. Similarly, staff and assets from Ampegon Antenna Systems GmbH and AM Broadcast GmbH have been sold to Cestron International and now continue their respective businesses under the name Elsyscom.

We hope that Ampegon Power Electronics and Cestron/Elsyscom work closely moving forward, once the necessary agreements are in place; providing the integrated transmitter/antenna systems that have been so successful in the past. Research Instruments has acquired the industrial pulsed power team in Dortmund, although this is not considered significant to the broadcast community.

A 4/4 rotatable directional antenna supplied by former Ampegon Antenna Systems GmbH of Ludwigshafen, Germany.

Unfortunately, a number of Ampegon’s customers were left with partially completed projects when our former owners withdrew their support in preparation for selling the company.

The company’s former staff — who remained in post even though they went unpaid for some months — regret the inconvenience caused, but are currently working hard under Ampegon Power Electronics to resolve the issues arising from being a new company, and not the legal successor of Ampegon AG. This has meant that contracts must be transferred, warranties reviewed and all other previous agreements with our customers and colleagues in the community must be annulled and renewed.

Looking ahead, however, the core skills of Ampegon remain in place to support the broadcast community over the coming years and decades. By and large Ampegon’s engineers and employees are the same people in the same place doing the same thing, but now with an industrial group behind them rather than a capital investment company. We are looking forward to continuing work with our friends and colleagues in the community as we look at new revolutions in broadcasting such as Digital Radio Mondiale, data communications and energy efficiency in the future.

Development of Ampegon’s second-generation Class A/B solid-state transmitters is practically complete, with production of 1.5 kW – 25 kW versions, capable of broadcasting between 3 MHz to 30 MHz, ramping up. A third-generation solution offering significantly greater energy efficiency is approaching prototype stage.

A shortwave transmitter supplied by Ampegon, now Ampegon Power Electronics AG, of Switzerland.

[Read: Solving the Medium-Wave Problem]

Simultaneously, Ampegon has developed control system upgrades to support users of older-generation tube transmitters having difficulty sourcing spares, and also to provide opportunities to retrofit older systems with new digital DRM broadcast capabilities. Of course, with touchscreen technology and innovative controls, such an upgrade makes these transmitters easier to use, simpler to maintain and safer than ever before. Of course, we are complimented by the requests to support over 20-year-old transmitters, since this is testimony to their reliability and value.

It is Ampegon’s hope to continue serving shortwave broadcasting long into the future. We see the unique capabilities of the technique, and the significant future opportunities presented by digital broadcasting with DRM. And who knows what other technologies may benefit from use of shortwave? Time will tell, and Ampegon intends to be there to support it.

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