China’s GCL-Si mulls purchase of semiconductor manufacturer, may leave cell, module business

On May 14, GCL-Si — part of the GCL Poly group, a major polysilicon producer — resumed trading of its stock on Shenzhen’s GEM board, after halting trading on April 27 on the grounds that it was considering an unspecified asset purchase.
Since the trading halt, it has confirmed in statements to the Shenzhen stock exchange that the target asset is a state-owned semiconductor manufacturer. It has indicated that it might facilitate the planned investment partly by cash and also by issuing shares. But it also said the negotiations involve multiple parties, which is why it could take some time before even an initial framework agreement is signed.
Multiple Chinese news outlets have reported that GCL-Si is actively looking to set up a second core business, in response to tough competition in the PV module business and declining prices. They have claimed that it may leave the PV cell and module business to exclusively focus on producing wafers for the semiconductor industry, without citing sources.
On LinkedIn yesterday, Morgan Kuo, executive adviser at WisolPro Consulting, described the news as “shocking.” He added that speculation that the company might exit the solar business suggested that the outlook for the global PV sector is “not optimistic.”
If the company does leave the PV sector, it would be surprising, given that it has made a number of key solar-related investments in recent months. In April, for example, it revealed a US$930 million, 4 GW plan to produce solar PV ingots, wafers, cells and modules in India with Japan’s SoftBank.
Also in April, GCL-Poly Energy agreed to lend $110 million to GNE Development, which GCL-Si holds a 10.01% stake in; and announced details of a joint venture with the Qujing Municipal Government in China to build a 20 GW monocrystalline ingot facility in Qujing. Last July meanwhile, GCL-Si opened a 600 MW PV cell production facility in Vietnam in cooperation with Vina Solar.
*On May 18, GCL-Si issued a press release to announce that it will present new mono and multi high-efficiency modules at the annual SNEC PV Power Expo (SNEC) in Shanghai at the end of May, in what appears to be a response to recent speculation by the Chinese media over the company’s future plans. “GCL SI currently has a module production capacity of approximately 6 GW, and its shipment volume reached 4.84 GW in 2017, ranking it as one of the top suppliers in the world,” the company said.