Sharp continues retreat from overseas solar


Overnight reports Sharp will halt solar panel production at its U.S. facility in Tennessee are in line with Japanese electronics giant’s strategy to turn its business around.

Parent company Sharp Corp’s medium term management plan for the fiscal years 2013-15 announced an intent to focus operations on Asia, the Middle East and north Africa region (MENA) and China at the expense of the U.S. and Europe with a particular aim of shrinking the company’s solar businesses in the latter two regions "to focus on the domestic market."

Having announced last month that Sharp Solar will be closing its manufacturing line in Wrexham, north Wales, in February – with the expected loss of 250 jobs – it was reported yesterday panel production at the company’s factory in Tennessee will halt by March.

A Bloomberg report announcing the news quoted Sharp spokesman Miyuki Nakayama as saying the number of redundancies at the facility – which will continue to manufacture microwave ovens – will be determined after talks with labor unions but added a report in the Japanese Nikkei newspaper speculated around 300 of the facility’s estimated 450 employees could be made redundant.

Sharp’s medium term business strategy, published in May, states an aim to reduce sales of solar cells from JPY259.9 billion (US$2.5 billion) in 2012 to JPY230 billion by 2015 against increased sales targets for the rest of the group’s products over the same period.

Sharp pulls in its global solar horns

The document also outlines a strategy of retreating from a global approach to solar cell sales in favor of regional sales strategies.

News of the end of solar manufacturing in Memphis came on the same day the U.S. Department of Commerce bowed to pressure from SolarWorld America to launch an investigation to close a loophole in the anti dumping and countervailing duty regime applied to Chinese-made solar cells.

German company SolarWorld‘s U.S. subsidiary claims cheap Chinese products, featuring Taiwanese-made cells as a workaround, are destroying solar manufacturing Statesside.

Yesterday also saw the U.S. division of Portuguese solar manufacturer and developer Martifer Solar file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from its creditors to help ease it through a cashflow crisis.