ET Solar joins forces with cash-rich rival to drive exports

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With analysts expecting a wave of consolidation among China’s big solar manufacturers as the world’s largest PV market cools, one of the big guns this week announced a strategic partnership to drive up exports.

Nanjing-based module manufacturer ET Solar announced on Monday it will enter into an arrangement with apparently cash rich module maker Tunghsu Kangtu, extending its extensive overseas sales network and strong international brand to its partner.

And the press release issued by ET Solar – whose U.S. module sales business filed for bankruptcy in December – stated the agreement was entirely prompted by the decision of the Chinese solar authorities to rein in solar by curtailing subsidies at the end of May.

The announcement stated: “Two months after Beijing announced its new policy to eliminate subsidies for most solar projects, the industry participants in China have gone through an unexpected drop in solar installations and are gradually recovering from the short-term disruption by increasing cooperation.

‘China policy will encourage consolidation’

“Analysts believe that the halting of installation quotas in 2018 for ground-mounted solar energy projects in China and limiting distributed solar activity to 10 GW are set to have major industry implications given that the country accounted for 54% of global installations in 2017.

“The measures will curb demand while adding margin pressure, encourage industry consolidation and drive aggressive export activity. Many Chinese solar module manufacturers have already released their promotion plan to overseas markets. However two manufacturers have realized there is a better way to handle the present industry situation.”

The press release offers few financial details, revealing only that Kangtu’s “strong capital” will be combined with ET Solar’s ability to hit big orders and distribute products outside a troubled Chinese market.

According to an article published by the dong-xu.com website in June 2017, Tunghsu Kangtu was established in 2015 as a subsidiary of Shenzhen-based Tunghsu Azure and at that point had a relatively modest annual module output of 400 MW, worth CNY1.6 billion ($231 million). Parent company Azure at that point is reported to have completed a solar portfolio amounting to almost 3 GW with another 800 MW in development.

Monday’s release also revealed the two companies were founding members of the Smart Jade group of PV companies, established in the immediate aftermath of May’s policy announcement in Beijing. The organization is described by ET Solar as “a photovoltaic alliance aimed at resolving short-term pressure and achieving coordinated development”.

That organization appears to have similar foreign trade ambitions as the International Investment Alliance founded by government departments in Beijing in June, as part of the One Belt, One Road and International Capacity Co-operation drives being pushed by the Chinese government to drive trade expansion overseas.

This article has been amended to include reference to the International Investment Alliance.