Whilst last quarter brought Norwegian polysilicon producer REC Silicon news of a welcome respite from its domestic tax authorities, the most momentous developments for the company have occurred this month.
On October 13, the manufacturer – which has all its wholly-owned manufacturing facilities on U.S. soil – signed agreements to supply solar-grade polysilicon to a U.S. customer and to establish a production line for silicon anodes for lithium-ion batteries at its Moses Lake site.
With recent weeks also bringing another big tax settlement – this time with the local authorities in Grant County, Washington state – and a big corporate fundraising exercise, Q4 could be the point at which the beleaguered manufacturer turned around its fortunes.
The Moses Lake facility halted production of fluidized bed reactor polysilicon for the solar industry in the second quarter of last year as REC Silicon was caught in the political crossfire between the White House and Beijing, with the trade tariffs slapped on U.S. polysilicon by China effectively killing the company's solar business.
This month, however, REC Silicon signed a co-operation agreement with Portland, Oregon-based solar manufacturing start-up Violet Power to be part of a, non-Chinese silicon solar supply chain. On the same day, the Norwegian company announced a similar tie-up with Washington state-based Group 14 Technologies to establish commercial silicon anode production facilities at Moses Lake.
The latter deal would require fresh capital and REC Silicon, buoyed by a third-quarter decision by the Norwegian tax authorities to abandon an investigation into 2012-15 income matters – which had added up to a $27.2 million potential liability – completed the first, NOK302 million ($31.6 million) round of a private shares issue on Tuesday. A second tranche of equity will be issued next month – subject to a shareholder vote in Oslo on November 9 – and is expected to generate a gross NOK698 million.
The company settled its property rates dispute with Grant County by agreeing to pay $3 million by December 15 and then $1.75 million annually for the next six years. By pv magazine‘s maths, that adds up to a $13.5 million settlement with $10.5 million payable after December, although the third-quarter update issued by REC Silicon today mentioned a $9.9 million note-payable to Grant County for the future monies.
Either way, the company reported a $35.9 million cash pile at the end of last month, up $4.3 million from the previous quarter, with $3.6 million of that money coming from operating activity as the business continued to supply poly for the semiconductor industry and silane gas. Both those products were made at REC Silicon's production facility in Butte, Montana which the company had previously stated it was prepared to sell. Talk of potential suitors was quietly brushed under the carpet in today's more upbeat update.
That Grant County decision removed another $17.6 million net liability from REC Silicon's accounts. That leaves just an indemnity loan related to the bankruptcy of a former subsidiary in 2012 – for which the company last year refused a claim for NOK150 million – as the sole historical worry to concern investors.