Sunways: prospects positive, says insolvency administrator

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The court-appointed insolvency administrator of German solar group Sunways AG has expressed optimism for the future of the company after finding two major investors who acquired the firm’s core businesses.

A subsidiary of China’s Shunfeng Photovoltaic International snapped up Sunways’ solar inverter division in the city of Konstanz last month.

And more recently, Bluecell GmbH took over the company’s solar cell facility in the city of Arnstadt, where all the employees are set to keep their jobs. A newly founded company for the specific purpose of the acquisition, Bluecells is headed by Swiss exec Marc Gion Berthoud.

Insolvency administrator Thorsten Schleich sees long-term prospects in both cases.

Schleich said the company faced difficult conditions at the start of insolvency proceedings some six weeks ago. "After the proceedings were opened, the employees only had a legal right to insolvency pay for a little more than one month. And a continuation of operations after proceedings had been opened was not possible given the financial state of the two companies. That’s why I’m happy that we have managed in a short space of time to find investors for a continuation solution in Konstanz as well as Arnstadt," he added.

The Shunfeng subsidiary has also acquired the "Sunways" brand along with the inverter and building-integrated PV businesses. The takeover saved the jobs of about 50% of the company’s employees in Konstanz.

"We are pleased that Shunfeng’s acquisition of Sunways has been completed," said Suntech CEO Eric Luo, who is overseeing the integration and operations of companies acquired by Shunfeng. Luo added that the move allowed Shunfeng to expand into the area of services and complete solutions. "We realize that as grid parity approaches, the service and solution business is becoming more and more important so we are expanding in this segment.

"Similar to Suntech, which now has the strongest financial footing in the solar industry with nearly zero debt since its acquisition by Shunfeng, this deal will allow Sunways to continue to make R&D investments in their inverter business, Luo said.

Suntech’s chief exec added that it was the group’s "mission to become the largest integrated clean energy supplier globally – integrated not only in terms of manufacturing but also in terms of owning clean energy producing assets. We are creating the Shunfeng family of companies with capabilities in design, engineering, manufacturing, construction, finance, insurance, operation and maintenance, energy storage, solar products and applications."

Schleich declined to comment on the possible compensation ratio for Sunways creditors. "We are still assessing the recoverability of existing claims against the majority shareholder, LDK Solar Co., Ltd."

For Sunways AG shareholders, however, there is no prospect at all of receiving a repayment of their investment after completion of the insolvency proceedings.

Friedhelm Schaal of Konstanz’s Municipal Business Promotion Agency nevertheless welcomed the developments. "Despite difficult times, with its support for the solar industry, Konstanz has prioritized the right technology for the future. Even if not all the jobs here have been saved, the industry is consolidating and will remain a focal point of the Konstanz business community."

Alongside various solar technology companies, the regional Solarlake Konstanz network also includes the University of Konstanz, the International Solar Energy Research Center Konstanz and the Konstanz University of Applied Sciences.

It was a team of people associated with the University of Konstanz led by Roland Burkhardt that originally founded Sunways in 1993.