Shunfeng Adding Suntech in Bid to Become Largest Solar Supplier

Apr 28, 2014 4:41 pm ET

April 29 (Bloomberg) -- Wuxi Suntech Power’s 3 billion yuan ($480 million) acquisition by Shunfeng Photovoltaic International Ltd. paves the way for the company to rejoin the ranks of the largest solar manufacturers.

Suntech confirmed the purchase in a statement yesterday. The Wuxi, China-based company expects to ship at least 2.5 gigawatts of panels this year, exceeding the 2.1 gigawatts it delivered in 2011 that made it the world’s biggest supplier.

Suntech was hard-hit by a global solar slump that dragged down prices and ate into margins. The corporate parent failed to pay $541 million in U.S. bonds last year and its Wuxi manufacturing unit was pulled into bankruptcy in China. Shunfeng is seeking to become a renewable-energy powerhouse and shareholders approved the deal April 7.

Shunfeng’s goal is to “become the world’s largest integrated clean-energy supplier,” Suntech Chief Executive Officer Eric Luo said in a video on his company’s website.

A Hong Kong real estate tycoon, Zheng Jianming, owns a 30 percent stake in Shunfeng. Through holding companies, he also owns about 22 percent of LDK Solar Co., the second-biggest solar wafer supplier by 2012 capacity.

Suntech has annual production capacity of 2.4 gigawatts to 2.5 gigawatts now. Adding Shunfeng’s operations will increase that to 3 gigawatts to 3.5 gigawatts by the end of the year, Luo said.

Suntech idled some production last year while restructuring its operations in bankruptcy.

“It gave us a break to reinvest in our technology,” Luo said. “We are very financially healthy today.”

Shipment Forecasts

Suntech’s forecast may make it the third-largest panel maker this year. Yingli Green Energy Holding Co., which became the largest supplier in 2012, expects to ship as much as 4.2 gigawatts of panels in 2014, followed by Trina Solar Ltd. with 3.6 gigawatts to 3.8 gigawatts.

Canadian Solar Inc. forecast shipments of 2.5 gigawatts to 2.7 gigawatts and JinkoSolar Holding Co. anticipates 2.3 gigawatts to 2.5 gigawatts.

Suntech will honor warranties for the more than 30 million panels already installed around the world, and has set aside funds to cover past and future warranty obligations, according to the statement.