Business / Companies

Shunfeng set to pay $57.8m for stake in Suniva

(Agencies) Updated: 2015-08-14 11:05

Shunfeng International Clean Energy Ltd, the Hong Kong-based solar company controlled by billionaire Zheng Jianming, agreed to acquire a majority share of United States-based solar manufacturer Suniva for $57.8 million.

Shunfeng intends to integrate Suniva's high-efficiency products into its own and expand into the US market, the Changzhou, Jiangsu province-based company said on Thursday in a statement.

The company, which will own 64 percent of Suniva, has been expanding production capacity as it seeks to become the world's biggest renewable energy provider, including the portfolio of companies owned by its parent, Asia Pacific Resources Development Investment Ltd.

"We wanted something that could move quickly and maintain the US brand," Chief Executive Officer Eric Luo said in an interview. "The US has always been considered a strategic market."

After the acquisition, both sides have agreed to expand Suniva capacity to 1 gigawatt, Luo said. He sees the US market growing to 7 gW to 8 gW a year, up from 6.2 gW last year.

In June, Luo said the company was considering an acquisition in North America to expand the solar production capacity of its Wuxi Suntech Power Co unit. Suniva has a factory to produce solar cells and modules at its headquarters in Norcross, Georgia, and opened a new factory in Saginaw Township, Michigan.

With the acquisition, Shunfeng gains a foothold in the US without being subject to the tariffs and duties imposed on solar panels and cells made in China, said Jade Jones, analyst at GTM Research in San Francisco. "It will help the company penetrate the US market in a way that it doesn't have access to now."

Other solar manufacturers are opening sites overseas to avoid US trade barriers. Trina Solar Ltd, the world's largest solar panel manufacturer, is building a plant in Thailand, and JinkoSolar Holding Co opened one in Malaysia.

The portfolio of Shunfeng's parent includes energy storage companies Boston Power and Powin Energy, electric vehicle maker GreenWheel EV and light-emitting diode chip maker Lattice Power Corp. Lattice joined a group of investors that bought 80 percent of Royal Philips NV's LED light bulb business in April.

Zheng is a Hong Kong property tycoon who has built a group of Chinese solar manufacturing assets worth about $20 billion.

Suniva's current investors are set to retain ownership in the company, including Warburg Pincus, New Enterprise Associates Inc and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

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