Sharp to Halt Tennessee Solar Panel Making by End of March

Jan 23, 2014 6:10 am ET

(Updates with comment in final paragraph.)

Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Sharp Corp., a Japanese electronics maker, will stop solar panel production at its factory in Tennessee as it reviews its photovoltaic panel business.

Output will stop by the end of March, and the number of jobs to be cut at the plant in Memphis will be decided after talks with the labor union, said Miyuki Nakayama, a spokeswoman for Sharp. The Nikkei newspaper reported that as many as 300 employees are expected to be dismissed at the factory.

The Osaka-based company is reconsidering its production capacity for solar products, Nakayama said. Sharp said last month that it will stop producing solar panels at its U.K. plant in Wales by the end of February and cut as many as 250 employees.

“We are in the middle of structural reform for our solar business,” Nakayama said.

The Tennessee plant, which employees about 450 people, will continue making other products such as microwaves, Nakayama said. About 300 people are involved in solar production.

“The two plants in the U.K. and Tennessee are quite old by global standards and are unlikely to be cost competitive,” said Jenny Chase, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Zurich. “It’s likely to be cheaper to outsource module assembly to manufacturers with newer, more automated lines in China, southeast Asia, Mexico and Poland.”

--With assistance from Randall Hackley in London. Editors: Madelene Pearson, Jason Rogers