Solarworld May File Claim for Damages After China Spy Allegation

May 19, 2014 12:37 pm ET

May 19 (Bloomberg) -- Solarworld AG, Germany’s biggest solar-panel maker, is looking into possible damage claims after its U.S. unit allegedly became the target of Chinese economic espionage.

Solarworld’s lawyers are investigating such claims after the U.S. government filed a suit saying the company has been the target of a Chinese spy attack, Chief Executive Officer Frank Asbeck said today in an interview. One defendant in 2012 allegedly stole “thousands” of e-mails with information on its financial position, cost structure and business strategy from Solarworld, according to the indictment.

“On the one hand, this is a big honor and nod to our excellent technology that part of the Chinese competition seems to deem it necessary to spy on us,” Asbeck said by phone. “On the other hand, it’s a criminal act to steal what we are developing with a lot of money.”

The spying probe is the latest development in a solar trade-war that saw Solarworld win rulings from U.S. and European Union authorities against Chinese solar-panel dumping. More than a dozen German companies including Q-Cells SE, once the world’s largest cell maker, and Solar Millennium AG have filed for insolvency in the past years, with Chinese rivals blamed for selling below cost.

While Solarworld tightened its security after hearing about the alleged spying, no customer or employee data was stolen, Ben Santarris, spokesman for Solarworld in the U.S., said today.

“We’re continuing to fight for the right of American solar companies and workers to compete fairly,” he said.