Gintech explores merger and relocation opportunities in light of US tariffs

Facing U.S. import tariffs of 27.55% for its solar cells, Taiwanese solar cell maker Gintech has confirmed that it is exploring opportunities to either relocate its manufacturing plant or merge its operations with competitors or suppliers in an attempt to circumvent the U.S. duties and remain competitive in this lucrative market.

Announced in December, the new anti-dumping duties imposed by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) went into effect last month, with Gintech exposed to the upper end of the tariff band, which ranges from 11.45% to 27.55%.

Since the duties went live, Gintech’s stock has declined 7.4% in Taipei, and the company is keen to evaluate any option that will enable it to maintain a supply presence into the U.S. – preferably without having to stump up the duties.

"We need presence in supply chains besides our core operations in solar cells," Gintech CFO Lay Lay Pan told Bloomberg last week.

With the company’s chief Taiwanese competitors already shoring-up survival strategies of their own – Motech purchased Topcell Solar International in December for $65 million in an attempt to lower costs and increase production scale, while Neo Solar Power (NSP) acquired DelSolar in 2013 – the pressure is on Gintech to stay relevant.

Despite reporting full utilization rates at its Taiwan fab in the fourth quarter of 2014, Gintech is mulling the possibility of moving production elsewhere in southeast Asia in an attempt to continue to enjoy tariff-free supply to the U.S. market, which is set to once again lead the way for solar investment in 2015, alongside Japan and China.

Taiwanese competitors enjoy mixed fortunes

Gintech’s leading Taiwanese competitors have reported a series of mixed financial results for 2014 and Q1 2015. Motech Industries saw its sales increase by 13.4% month-on-month, achieving sales of $54.4 million in January compared to $33 million December.

For NSP – Taiwan’s largest cell producer in volume shipped – posted sales of $47.9 million in January, which was a rather hefty plummet from the $89.8 million registered in December. However, December’s record month can be attributed to the sale of a U.S. project for $26 million, handled via its subsidiary, General Energy Solutions (GES).

Collectively, 2014 was a good year for Taiwanese solar cell companies. According to data gathered by EnergyTrend, more than 10 GW of cells were shipped from Taiwan last year, a figure that represents a 20% increase on 2013’s performance despite the anticipated slow-down caused by the announcement of U.S. tariffs.