Suniva to expand US manufacturing capacity on back of $57 million Shunfeng acquisition


Following the news that Suntech owner, Shunfeng will acquire a 63.13% stake in high efficiency crystalline silicon cell and module manufacturer, Suniva for $57.8 million, Suniva has said it will increase its U.S. manufacturing capacity to over 400 MW on the back of high demand, thus creating 300 new jobs.

"High demand for our products continues to validate that as the U.S. solar market matures, sophisticated buyers are increasingly valuing power density and quality," stated John Baumstark, chairman and CEO of Suniva. "This expansion was encouraged by the U.S. market’s interest in high quality, high-value American-made solar products."

The ramp up represents an increase of just 30 MW, with current manufacturing capacity sitting at around 370 MW. Bloomberg reports, however, both parties have agreed that Suniva will increase manufacturing capacity to 1 GW.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Shunfeng CEO, Eric Luo, added, "We wanted something that could move quickly and maintain the U.S. brand. The U.S. has always been considered a strategic market." He believes the country’s solar market will grow from 6.2 GW in 2014, to 7 to 8 GW a year.

The acquisition

According to documents filed with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Shunfeng will pay $12 million of the $57.8 million in cash to Suniva, with the remaining issued as shares (around 70 million). The acquisition will present the Chinese giant the opportunity "to reap the huge potentials of the solar market in the United States." The possibility to enter America without facing trade tariffs will have also made Suniva an attractive target.

Shunfeng further explained the U.S. manufacturer was a valuable acquisition, due to its "cutting-edge technology in high conversion efficiency cells manufacturing and a solid track record to deliver high-power solar cells and modules while reducing the cost of the photovoltaics value chain," adding that its 19% conversion efficiencies render it the "world’s highest commercially-available cell efficiencies using low manufacturing costs."

In November 2008, Suniva completed its first 38 MW manufacturing line. It added a further 64 MW, which were completed in 2009. A year later, the company increased its 96 MW capacity to 170. Late last year, it bumped this up to around 370.

In the documents filed by Shunfeng, Suniva had a net loss (after taxation) of $44.4 million in 2013. This improved the following year, in 2014, to a loss of $15.5 million. The Chinese company further calculates assets totaling $74.6 million as of December 31, 2014.

Aside from Shunfeng, other shareholders in the company include Goldman Sachs, New Enterprise Associates, Warburg-Pincus and Prelude Ventures.